April 21, 2009

His Excellency Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei

The Office of the Supreme Leader
Islamic Republic Street – Shahid Keshvar Doust Street
Islamic Republic of Iran

His Excellency Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi

Head of the Judiciary
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

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,300 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our deep concern regarding the imprisonment of journalist and writer Roxana Saberi.

According to our information, Roxana Saberi, an Iranian-American television journalist and writer who has been living in Iran for six years, was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment on charges of “espionage” on April 18, 2009. According to her father, Saberi confessed under pressure during her pre-trial detention, but retracted her statement in court. However, the prosecution still used her confession during the trial. No evidence regarding her alleged espionage activities has been made public. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad asked the prosecutor to ensure that Saberi be given a fair trial, and Head of the Judiciary Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi requested that the prosecutor reconsider the case both “quickly and fairly.”

Saberi was arrested in late January 2009 after purchasing wine, which is outlawed in Iran. On February 10, 2009, she placed a short call to her father in the United States, alerting him to her detention and requesting that he not contact the press. A spokesman for the judiciary confirmed her incarceration in Tehran’s Evin Prison on March 5, 2009, where she continues to be held. Press freedom advocates pointed to Ms. Saberi’s unusually long detention without charge, stating that she may be held due to her allegedly “illegal” and “unauthorized” activities as a journalist in Iran after the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance revoked her press credentials in 2006. However, reports indicate that Ms. Saberi continued to work without credentials only after receiving permission from the government.

PEN American Center is seriously concerned that Roxana Saberi is being held solely because of her work as a journalist in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a signatory. We therefore call for her immediate and unconditional release, as well as the release of all other writers held in violation of their right to freedom of expression.
Thank you for your attention.

Hannah Pakula                   
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee   

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

Cc: His Excellency Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
The Presidency
Palestine Avenue
Azerbaijan Intersection
Islamic Republic of Iran
Fax: Via Foreign Ministry: +98 21 6 674 790

H.E. Mr. Mohammad Khazaee
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the UN
622 Third Avenue, 34th Floor
New York, NY 10017
Fax: (212) 867-7086

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