Wednesday, May 06, 2009

SABERI ENDS HUNGER STRIKE IN IRAN

Reza Saberi in Tehran, 25 April
Mr Saberi says he was very worried about his daughter's health

The jailed US-Iranian reporter Roxana Saberi has ended a two-week hunger strike, her father Reza Saberi says.

Roxana Saberi, 32, began eating again on Monday evening. She started the fast on 21 April to protest against an eight-year jail sentence for spying.

Her lawyer told the BBC that an appeals court would hear her case on 12 May. He said the verdict would be announced the same day or within a week.

Iranian judiciary officials denied Ms Saberi was ever on a hunger strike.

Reza Saberi, who on Tuesday said his daughter was "very weak", welcomed the news.

"She has stopped her hunger strike," he told Reuters news agency. "We are very relieved and happy that she stopped. We were very worried about her health," he said.

The case of Roxana Saberi has sparked international attention and protests calling for her to be released. US President Barack Obama has also appealed on her behalf.

On Tuesday, the spokesman for the judiciary in Iran denied the family's claims of a hunger strike.

"I asked the deputy prosecutor two days ago. He said that she is in complete health and not on hunger strike," Ali Reza Jamshidi told a news conference in Tehran.

Ms Saberi has been held in Tehran's Evin prison since January.

The journalist originally faced a less serious accusation of buying alcohol, and later of working as a reporter without a valid press card.

Soon after, the spying charge was introduced, and she was tried and sentenced behind closed doors by the Revolutionary Court in Tehran.

Ms Saberi, who holds dual US and Iranian citizenship, has spent six years in Iran studying and writing a book.

She has worked as a freelance journalist for news organizations including the BBC and the US-based National Public Radio.

BBC NEWS REPORT.

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