April 21, 2009
Contact:
Anna Christopher, NPR


   

NPR NEWS REPORTS: PROMINENT HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYERS
DENIED ACCESS TO ROXANA SABERI AT EVIN PRISON

TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW WITH LEGAL COUNSEL AT www.NPR.org


April 21, 2009; Washington, D.C. – NPR News has learned that members of the legal team planning to represent jailed Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi were denied access to her today at Evin Prison in Iran, despite being asked by the Saberi family to join their daughter’s legal team. Saberi’s father, Reza Saberi, recently asked the legal team of prominent human rights attorney Shirin Ebadi to represent his daughter. Today, a member of Ebadi’s team, Abdolfatah Soltani, tells NPR that attempts to get the legal authority to represent Saberi were blocked.

Soltani tells NPR that they were instructed by Iran’s Revolutionary Court to visit Ms. Saberi at Evin Prison, to obtain her signature for a power of attorney – which Iranian law mandates must be signed by the defendant. When they arrived at the prison, however, “Authorities…did not permit our lawyer to meet Roxana Saberi and they did not allow the power of attorney to be signed.”

He continues: “We are now forced to meet with higher judicial officials to get this remedied. The fact that they are not allowing us to represent Saberi is a basic violation of her rights. I am shocked that on one front, the president [Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] has urged that Saberi should be allowed a full defense. Iran's judiciary chief, Ayatollah Shahroudi, has done the same, ordering a full investigation into Roxana Saberi's case, and yet it's very unfortunate that lower-level security officials don't listen to the higher officials within the judiciary and the government.

Mr. Soltani added, "According to the Article 168 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran - political offenses will be tried openly and in the presence of a jury, in courts of justice."

The complete account from Soltani is available online, where there are links to past NPR coverage of Saberi’s imprisonment: www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=103337166

On Saturday, NPR News reported that Iran's Revolutionary Court sentenced Saberi to 8 years in prison for espionage. Saberi and her attorney were afforded no opportunity to review the evidence against her or to mount a defense, and her lawyer was not permitted to ask the court about bail. The 31-year old journalist has reported from Iran for NPR, the BBC, ABC, FOX and other news organizations. She has been jailed at Evin Prison in Iran since January 31st.