Reza SaberiAnchor Marco Werman speaks with Reza Saberi, the father of jailed Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi, who continues to be held in a Tehran prison. Last month, she was convicted in a one-day trial of spying for the U.S. The Obama administration says the charges are baseless.
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MARCO WERMAN: I'm Marco Werman, and this is The World, a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI, and WGBH Boston. Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi continues to be held in a Tehran prison. Saberi has reported for our program and other radio outlets in the six years she's been in Iraq. In January, she was arrested by Iranian authorities, and last month, after a one-day trial that took place behind closed doors, Saberi was convicted of espionage. She was sentenced to 8 years in prison. The Obama administration has called the charges against Saberi â€œbaselessâ€, and demands that she be freed. This week, at her parents urging, Roxana ended a two-week hunger strike. Reza Saberi is Roxana's father. We reached him on his cell phone in Tehran, and he told us what happened during his latest visit with his daughter.
REZA SABERI: We saw her on Monday, and we asked her to stop her hunger strike. She resisted, but we insisted because her health was deteriorating. We ordered some yogurt, and a few spoonfuls of yogurt I put in her mouth, but she didn't want to eat anything else. And later she called back and said she decided to break her strike.
WERMAN: How is her health?
SABERI: Her health is improving now since she began to eat as of Monday evening.
WERMAN: That hunger strike she had been staging began on April 21st. She was protesting her imprisonment. How did the Iranian authorities respond to the fasting?
SABERI: There was some talk that she hadn't gone on strike, but she told them that she was on strike. She had eaten only two things in two weeks. She drank water and sometimes sugar water. For two days, she stopped drinking water, then she collapsed and they gave her IV fluids. Then she began to recover, and after she had started eating, she's feeling better now.
WERMAN: The Iranian government has promised a complete review of Roxana's case on appeal, and they've said that she'll be allowed to provide a full defense at that point. What is the status of that appeal?
SABERI: Well, next week there's going to be an appeals trial, and we expect at the time she will be treated well and she will have a just and fair trial. At this time, we can't do anything but just wait to see what they will decide.
WERMAN: And how are you being treated while you're in Tehran?
SABERI: We have been treated quite well. And they're not doing anything to us except we go to the lawyers and also we go to court. It's a busy time for us but this is why we have come here, to help our daughter to get out of prison, if possible.
WERMAN: You were in the prison on Monday to visit her. What are the conditions like for her in the prison?
SABERI: Well, the actual prison is on shore, but they took us to a room where the visits take place. And there they bring the prisoners, and we visit with the prisoners for about 20 minutes, sometimes half an hour. And there are two prison guards that come and sit with us, so whatever we say we have to say in Persian, and needless to say in English it's translated so they want to know what you're talking about. It's a pretty controlled visitation. She's with 3 other women in the cell. It's about 10 by 12 room, another small room.
WERMAN: How often can you visit your daughter?
SABERI: Once a week, and that's on Mondays we go. More than a month that we are here, and our coming was very good for our daughter, because she had not visit anybody in the prison. They allow only any the immediate members of the family and she didn't have immediate members â€“ so when we came, we were allowed to visit her.
WERMAN: Do you know if your daughter is able to access any sort of media while she's in jail?
SABERI: They have a small TV in their cell, in which they can turn only the local channels. The local channels, they're not showing much about Roxana's case or the world's response.
WERMAN: And if there is no breakthrough in this case, if the appeal is rejected, are you prepared to stay in Tehran for the full term of Roxana's sentence, of 8 years?
SABERI: Yeah. I am prepared to stay until our daughter is free. This is what I have said from the beginning.
WERMAN: Reza Saberi is the father of Roxana Saberi. Roxana is an Iranian-American journalist who has been held in a Tehran jail since January. Reza Saberi, thank you very much for speaking with us.