26 Apr 2009

Jailed US-Iranian reporter on hunger strike - father

6:08 am on 26 April 2009

A US-Iranian reporter jailed by Tehran on charges of espionage has gone on hunger strike and says she will not stop until she is released, her father says.

The freelance journalist Roxana Saberi, 31, was sentenced to eight years in jail on 18 April on charges of spying for the United States.

Her father, Reza Saberi, said she had called from prison to say she was on her fifth day of refusing food.

The United States has called the charges against Saberi baseless and demanded her immediate release.

Her defence lawyer said he had appealed against the sentence and expressed hope she would be acquitted.

A citizen of both the United States and Iran, Saberi was arrested in late January for working in the Islamic Republic after her press credentials had expired. She was later charged with espionage.

US President Barack Obama has expressed deep concern for her safety and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said releasing Ms Saberi, who has worked for the BBC and US National Public Radio, would serve as a goodwill gesture.

Tehran, which does not recognise dual nationality, says Washington should respect the independence of Iran's judiciary.

But in a statement welcomed by her lawyer, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last Sunday called on Tehran's prosecutor to ensure that Saberi enjoys full legal rights to defend herself.