Freed journalist calls on Iran to release aid worker

Thursday, June 25, 2009

At a press conference held Wednesday in Paris, France, Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi called on Iran to release Silva Harotonian, an Iranian citizen working for a United States aid agency. Saberi was jailed in Iran on charges of spying, and prior to her release shared a cell with Harotonian.

Roxana Saberi in 2009
Image: U.S. Department of State.

Harotonian was working on a healthcare project for the organization International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX). She was convicted of attempting to initiate a revolution, and received a sentence in January of three years in jail.

She gave me a lot of strength.

Roxana Saberi

"By arresting people like her, certain hardliners have created an atmosphere of fear within Iranian society that anyone who has practically any contact with foreigners... would be accused of acting against national security," said Saberi at the press conference. She spoke of Harotonian, saying "She gave me a lot of strength."

Saberi was joined in her efforts on behalf of her former cellmate by International Federation for the League of Human Rights president Karim Lahidji, International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran coordinator Hadi Ghaemi, and IREX president Robert Pearson.

Saberi has dual-citizenship as an Iranian-American, and she grew up in Fargo, North Dakota. She lived in Iran for six years while working as a journalist for news media organizations including the BBC. On January 31, four members of the Ministry of Intelligence and National Security of Iran took her from her home to face charges of spying for the United States. She was convicted and sentenced to eight years in jail, however this was reduced to a suspended sentence of two years. After returning to the United States, Saberi met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

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