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Gedmin Speaks Out on Saberi case in "The New York Times"

RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin was one of four people asked by "The New York Times" to comment on the imprisonment of Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi. The piece appeared on The Times' "Room for Debate" blog.

Ms. Saberi was arrested in Tehran in January for buying wine and being in the country with expired press credentials. She has since been convicted of espionage and sentenced to an eight year prison sentence which she, her family, and her lawyer refuse to accept. Saberi has reported for the BBC, National Public Radio, and other international media.

Gedmin pointed to RFE/RL's Persian service, Radio Farda, and the experience of one of its journalists, Parnaz Azima. In 2007, Ms. Azima was accused of "anti-state propaganda" and was placed under house arrest for eight months. Eventually she was released, fleeing the country under threat of arrest if she should return.

Gedmin's comments are reprinted below. The full post is available here.

Behind Bars in Iran | The New York Times

"A Daughter's Dilemma" by RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin

For the past few years, the Iranian government has intensified its harassment of journalists from our Persian-language division (Radio Farda). In one recent case, Parnaz Azima, one of our reporters who, like Ms. Saberi, holds Iranian and American citizenship, spent eight months under house arrest in Tehran. She was subsequently sentenced in absentia to a year in prison.

Authorities accused Parnaz Azima, a literary scholar who is known for her Hemingway translations, of “anti-state propaganda.” When she refused to return to Iran to face charges, they threatened to seize the deed to the home of her ailing 95-year-old mother.

Ultimately, an appeals court reversed that decision and suspended Parnaz’s sentence for two years. But any attempt to enter Iran will automatically lead to her arrest. Authorities well understand the bond between mother and daughter. If her mother becomes seriously ill, Nazy, as her friends call her, will feel compelled to travel home.

It is extraordinary. Iran considers it a crime to work for a foreign news organization. An expert from Reporters Without Borders who is following the case closely recently told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that the charges against Roxana Saberi are “baseless.” That the Iranian government is continuing this assault on media freedom and basic human rights at a time when the United States is offering a thaw in relations is disturbing.