Washington, DC – The National Iranian American Council strongly condemns the recent arrest and incarceration of Iranian American Roxana Saberi and Iran’s continuing pattern of human rights violations and targeting of the Iranian-American community. The Iranian-American community is deeply saddened and troubled by this event
Saberi was arrested in Iran in late January. Saberi, a U.S. citizen, had been living in Iran for six years and pursuing a master’s degree at Tehran University while working as a freelance journalist for National Public Radio, BBC, Fox News, and other media outlets. According to her father, the family has not been in contact with the thirty-one year old since their rushed phone conversation on February 10. Saberi has been denied the right to communicate with her family for ten days and there is little evidence that she has had access to legal counsel.
Iranian officials initially claimed that Saberi was arrested for purchasing a bottle of wine, an illegal activity in Iran. Iranian officials later claimed that Saberi’s press credentials had expired.
The development is one of several recent incarcerations of Iranian Americans traveling or living in Iran. The detention of California State University graduate, Esha Momeni, and Woodrow Wilson Center’s Haleh Esfandiari are among the latest high profile cases. Esfandiari, along with three other Iranian Americans, was detained in 2007 and held in Evin Prison with little or no access to legal counsel.
The Iranian government has also extended its clampdown on human rights activists and leaders of persecuted minority faiths. Late last year, Iran arrested six Baha’i leaders under dubious charges of “national security violations.” In January, Iranian authorities ransacked and shut down the headquarters of the Center for the Defense of Human Rights, founded by human rights defender and Nobel laureate, Shirin Ebadi.
“Saberi’s arrest is the most recent example of the Iranian government’s systematic violation of human rights guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Iran is a party,” said Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council. “The Iranian American community is deeply concerned about Saberi and Iran’s continuing degradation of basic civil liberties and human rights.”