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U.S. Senator Seeks Release of American Journalist Jailed in Iran

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U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar is urging the United Nations to intervene with the government of Iran to secure the immediate release of Roxana Saberi, an American journalist who grew up in Fargo and graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead.

In a letter today to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Klobuchar wrote: “I believe that the continued imprisonment of Ms. Saberi is unjustifiable and that the international community must make clear to the Government of Iran that systematic oppression of free speech and political dissent will lead only to further isolation.”

Klobuchar said her office has also been in contact with the U.S. State Department about the matter. Since 1979, the United States has not had direct diplomatic relations with Iran.

On February 10, Saberi called her father in Fargo, informing him that she had been arrested 10 days earlier. Saberi told her father that she would be released within two days, but she has not been heard from since. Her current whereabouts are unknown.

Saberi has lived in Iran for the past six years, reporting for National Public Radio, the BBC and other news organizations. She planned to return to the U.S. this year.

The Iranian government has publicly confirmed that Saberi is being detained, but under questionable circumstances. According to Iranian officials, Saberi is accused of “illegal” reporting activities after the government revoked her press credentials in 2006. However, her continuing work as a journalist was conducted with the knowledge and tacit consent of the Iranian government.

Saberi’s arrest coincides with the arrests of dozens of dissidents in advance of national elections scheduled for June.

In her letter, Klobuchar suggested that Saberi’s detention “appears to be unwarranted and in violation of basic human rights standards” and “is part of an alarming series of high-profile arrests of political and religious dissidents by Iranian officials.”

Full copy of the letter is below:

March 2, 2009

His Excellency Ban Ki-moon
Secretary General of the United Nations
First Avenue at 46th Street
New York, New York 10017

Dear Mr. Secretary General:

I write to express my deep concern over the recent imprisonment in Iran of Ms. Roxana Saberi, a journalist and U.S. citizen. Ms. Saberi’s detention, which appears to be unwarranted and in violation of basic human rights standards, is part of an alarming series of high-profile arrests of political and religious dissidents by Iranian officials. I request that you take urgent action to press the Government of Iran to secure the immediate release of Ms. Saberi and allow her to either continue her work in Iran or return to the U.S.

Ms. Saberi, who was born in North Dakota and graduated from Concordia College in Minnesota, has lived in Iran for six years. During this time, she reported for National Public Radio, British Broadcasting Corporation, and other news organizations, and planned to return to the U.S. this year following the completion of a book on Iranian culture. However, on February 10, Ms. Saberi’s father received a telephone call from his daughter informing him that she had been arrested 10 days earlier. Ms. Saberi told her father that she would be released within two days, but has not been heard from since.

The Government of Iran has confirmed that Ms. Saberi is being detained, but official statements regarding the charges against her have been disingenuous and contradictory. According to Iranian officials, Ms. Saberi is being charged for engaging in “illegal” reporting activities for continuing her work after the government revoked her press credentials in 2006. However, her work as a journalist following the revocation of her credentials has been conducted with the knowledge and tacit consent of the Iranian government. Her arrest, which coincides with the detention of dozens of members of opposition groups, appears to be motivated not by a lack of proper credentialing, but by Iranian leaders’ desire to suppress all dissent prior to the upcoming national elections.

I believe that the continued imprisonment of Ms. Saberi is unjustifiable and that the international community must make clear to the Government of Iran that systematic oppression of free speech and political dissent will lead only to further isolation. Therefore, I urge you to intervene with the Government of Iran on behalf of Ms. Saberi in order to end her unjust detention and ensure her immediate release.

Sincerely,
/s/ Senator Amy Klobuchar

Written by Keith Kamisugi

March 3, 2009 at 11:51 pm

Posted in Government

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