Iran: American-Iranian journalist sentenced

English PEN is seriously concerned about the eight-year prison sentence handed down to Iranian-American journalist and writer Roxana Saberi.

According to our information, Roxana Saberi was arrested in late January 2009 for buying alcohol, which is prohibited in Iran. Later, in early March it was reported that her detention was linked to her allegedly ‘illegal’ and ‘unauthorised’ activities as a journalist in Iran since 2006, when her press credentials were revoked. However, on 18 April 2009 she was sentenced behind closed doors by the Revolutionary Court in Tehran to eight years in prison for ‘espionage’. Her defence announced they will file an appeal within the next twenty days.

According to her father, Saberi had made confessions under pressure during her pre-trial detention. At her trial, she retracted these confessions, but they were still used against her in court. No information on the evidence of the charge of ‘espionage’ has been made public.     

On 19 April, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent a letter to the public prosecutor asking him to ensure that Roxana Saberi is given the opportunity to exercise all legal rights. On 20 April, Iran’s Head of the Judiciary Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi requested the prosecutor to reconsider the case ‘quickly and fairly’.


Roxana Saberi is currently held in Ward 209 of Tehran’s Evin prison. On 20 April, it was reported that Saberi’s parents had been allowed to visit her in prison and that she appeared to be in good health.

English PEN are urgently seeking information on the grounds for the charges against her. We fear that she may be held solely for the peaceful exercise of her right to free expression, and therefore in violation of Article 19 of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Iran is a signatory. If so, we urge that she is released immediately and unconditionally.

More information:

For English PEN’s previous alert, please click here.

To read Amnesty International’s report, please click here.

Peter Beaumont’s ‘Iran jails US journalist Roxana Saberi as spy’ (The Observer, Sunday 19 April 2009)

Henry Newman’s ‘A Prisoner of Iranian politics’ (, Monday 20 April 2009)

‘Iran orders ‘fair’ US spy appeal’ (BBC)

Free Roxana Saberi’s website:


– Expressing serious concern about the eight-year prison sentence handed down to Roxana Saberi, and seeking details of the grounds for the charges against her;
– Calling for her immediate and unconditional release if held in violation of Article 19 of the ICCPR, to which Iran is a signatory.


Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic
Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei
The Office of the Supreme Leader
Islamic Republic Street
End of Shahid Keshvar Doust Street
Islamic Republic of Iran
Via website:
Salutation: Your Excellency

Head of the Judiciary
Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi
Howzeh Riyasat-e Qoveh Qazaiyeh (Office of the Head of the Judiciary)
Pasteur St., Vali Asr Ave., south of Serah-e Jomhouri
Tehran 1316814737
Islamic Republic of Iran

(In the subject line write: FAO Ayatollah Shahroudi)
Salutation: Your Excellency


His Excellency Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
The Presidency
Palestine Avenue, Azerbaijan Intersection
Islamic Republic of Iran
Fax: 98 21 6 649 5880

If possible please send a copy of your appeal to the diplomatic representative for Iran in your country:

His Excellency Rasoul Movahedian
Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran
16 Prince’s Gate

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