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International Pressure Grows on Iran to Release Jailed Journalist


Iran says the case of American journalist Roxana Saberi, imprisoned in Tehran for spying, will get a fair review on appeal while international calls for her release are growing on World Press Freedom Day.

Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told his visiting Japanese counterpart Saturday that Saberi's appeal will be "reviewed justly and humanely."

Japan's Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone raised the issue in Tehran because Saberi's mother is Japanese. Her father is Iranian.

Journalist Saberi was convicted by an Iranian court on charges of spying and sentenced to eight years in prison. She has been on a hunger strike since April 21.

Saberi's father Reza and his wife Akiko are also in Tehran to try to win their daughter's release. Reza Saberi says he is grateful for all the support being shown worldwide for his daughter.

"We are very thankful for their support. I talked to my daughter, yesterday, and she said that while she did not want other people to go on hunger strike because of her, she appreciates their support very much," Saberi said.

He said he is touched by all the sympathy being expressed, globally, for his daughter, adding that he thinks her ordeal will end soon.

"I think they are doing a lot and we are very grateful for their support. We are optimistic that this problem will be solved in [the] near future," said Saberi.

Lucie Morillon of Reporters Without Borders in Washington says members of the group are taking up Saberi's cause by going on a hunger strike.

"We are very concerned about her health and we want her to know that other people have taken up her hunger strike and that she does not have to continue it. She is weak and we are here to let her know she can stop. Other people can do it for her, abroad," said Morillon.

She says journalists around the world should let Iran know they are committing an injustice and accomplishing nothing by detaining an innocent person.

"Today is World Press Freedom Day. It is a day where we celebrate the right to be informed, where we pay tribute to those courageous reporters who are taking risks to get information. The Iranian authorities are having here the perfect opportunity to do a gesture of goodwill and let her go," Morillon said. "She has done nothing wrong. They know it very well . These are trumped-up charges being held against her. They should let her go. It is not going to bring them anything to have someone like Roxana spending time in jail."

Journalists gathered Sunday in front of U.N. headquarters in New York City to begin their hunger strike and conducted a vigil in support of Saberi and two U.S. journalists being held by North Korea for allegedly spying.

International human-rights groups are also criticizing Iran for the execution Friday of a young woman who was convicted of murder when she was a minor. Her lawyer said authorities did not follow Iranian law in executing Delara Darabi.

Amnesty International says it is outraged by the hanging. It says Iran executes more juvenile offenders than any other nation - eight last year and 42 since 1990. The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Iran has signed, bans capital punishment for offenders who committed crimes before their 18th birthday.

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