Iran: Letter to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calling for the release journalist Roxana Saberi
His Excellency Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
President of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Your Excellency,

I am writing on the occasion of 3 May, World Press Freedom Day, to call for the release of journalist Roxana Saberi and all others held for exercising their right to freedom of expression, and for a full and transparent inquiry into the deaths of blogger Omidreza Mirsayafi and photojournalist Zahra Kazemi.

Iranian-American freelance journalist Ms Saberi has been sentenced to eight years in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison. She has been found guilty of spying on behalf of the American government.

At least two journalists have died in Evin Prison in the past six years in circumstances that remain not fully explained. Mr Mirsayafi, a cultural blogger who was serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence for insulting religious leaders, died in March in mysterious circumstances. In 2003, Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Ms Kazemi, who was detained for taking photographs outside Evin prison, died from a brain haemorrhage after being beaten in the jail. A security agent was later acquitted of her murder in a trial that was widely seen as flawed.

The imprisonment of Ms Saberi and the failure to fully explain the deaths in custody of Mr Mirsayafi and Ms Kazemi constitutes a deep blemish on the international standing of Iran.

I respectfully remind you that the incarceration of journalists for their reporting constitutes a clear breach of their right to freedom of expression, which is guaranteed by numerous international conventions, including Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Furthermore, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights considers that "detention, as punishment for the peaceful expression of an opinion, is one of the most reprehensible ways to enjoin silence and, as a consequence, a grave violation of human rights".

I respectfully call on you to make a break with history and to ensure that Ms Saberi and all those held for exercising their right to freedom of expression are released from jail immediately. I also urge you to do everything possible to ensure that those responsible for the deaths of Mr Mirsayafi and Ms Kazemi are swiftly brought to justice.

Yours sincerely,

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