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Jailed journalist goes on hunger strike in Iran

AN American-Iranian reporter jailed in Iran for espionage has gone on hunger strike and says she will not eat until she is released, her father said yesterday.

Reza Saberi said his daughter Roxana, 31, had called from prison to say she was on her fifth day of refusing food.

"She's not eating anything. I'm very worried," he said. "Judging by her voice over the telephone, she seems to be weak."

The freelance journalist was sentenced to eight years in jail on April 18 on charges of spying for the United States, in a verdict that could complicate Washington's efforts toward reconciliation with Iran after three decades of mutual mistrust.

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

Her defence lawyer said he had appealed the sentence and expressed hope she would be acquitted, but he also voiced concern about her health following news of the hunger strike.

"I'm opposed to such an act since her health does not allow for that, as she is physically very weak," Abdolsamad Khorramshahi said.

On Tuesday, Saberi's father said he believed she would starve herself to death if the verdict was upheld by an appeal court.

He said that his daughter shared a cell in Teheran's Evin jail with two other female prisoners and was "not in a bad condition."

But she was physically frail and seemed "desperate to get out of there."

A citizen of both the US 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 Saberi, who has worked for the BBC and US National Public Radio, would serve as a goodwill gesture.

Iran, which does not recognise dual nationality, says the US should respect the independence of its judiciary.

Lawyer Khorramshahi said Saberi's case will go to an appeal court in the next few days.


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