WASHINGTON, May 11 /PRNewswire/ --


H. E. Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi Head of the Judiciary Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran Re: Roxana Saberi

Your Excellency Ayatollah Shahroudi:

We write on behalf of the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF). IWMF is deeply troubled by the arrest, trial, and conviction of journalist Roxana Saberi. We believe her continued imprisonment violates the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, as we understand it, and also violates universal notions of free speech, free press, and due process. We write to urge you to intervene on her behalf and respectfully request that you provide a copy of our letter to the honorable judges reviewing her conviction.

IWMF has a strong interest in seeing justice done in Ms. Saberi's case. IWMF is a global network dedicated to strengthening the role of women in the news media worldwide as a means to further freedom of the press. For almost two decades, IWMF has been committed to supporting and honoring women journalists around the globe in their efforts to freely gather and report the news.

Ms. Saberi, a citizen of both the United States and Iran, was arrested in Tehran in January of this year, and detained, according to your nation's Foreign Ministry, for reporting without proper government-issued press credentials. Following a one-day trial held last month behind closed doors, Ms. Saberi was convicted of espionage. She was sentenced to eight years in prison, and is currently being held in Evin Prison in Tehran where she awaits a ruling on her appeal.

At the time of her arrest, Ms. Saberi was working as a freelance reporter for a number of international news organizations, including the United States' National Public Radio and the United Kingdom's British Broadcasting Corporation, and was writing a book on Iran's culture, art, and politics. These activities represent a fundamental exercise of the rights to free speech and a free press that are hallmarks of a strong government, and vital to the health and prosperity of all nations. They warrant protection, not punishment.

Journalists like Ms. Saberi, who gather news and information from within Iran in order to disseminate it freely around the globe, provide an invaluable service to your nation's people, as well as to the rest of the world. By facilitating the free exchange of ideas and information across borders, their work fosters understanding and tolerance among diverse people, and encourages peace among nations. But to serve these important purposes journalists must be free to ask questions, and to gather information. To the extent that a journalist who is simply investigating a story may be deemed a spy engaged in espionage, it would subject reporters to criminal punishment merely for gathering information and reporting the news. This would be contrary to the most basic understanding of a free press.

We read Chapter 3 of your Constitution, entitled The Rights of the People, and Chapter XI, entitled The Judiciary, to include numerous provisions meant to guarantee the right to a fair trial that is open to the public, especially in cases involving political and press offenses. See, e.g., Article 20 [Equality Before The Law]; Article 22 [Human Dignity and Rights]; Article 24 [Freedom of the Press]; Article 165 [Public Trials]; Article 166 [Reasoned Verdicts]; Article 167 [Rule of Law for the Judiciary]; Article 168 [Political and Press Offenses]. But fairness cannot be achieved by secret, one-sided determination of crucial facts that could lead to the imprisonment of an individual. Moreover, a public trial guards against a miscarriage of justice and gives the public confidence that standards of fairness are being observed, that established procedures are being followed, and that deviations from those procedures will become known and thus can be effectively challenged. The fair trial guarantee requires reversal of Ms. Saberi's conviction, which came after a one-day trial held in secrecy.

Ms. Saberi's conviction also should be set aside because the rights to free speech and a free press are human rights that belong to all the world's citizens and are widely recognized in governing documents by many nations. For example, we understand Article 24 of the Iranian Constitution to mean that publications and the press have freedom of expression except when it is detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam or the rights of the public. Similarly, Article 35 of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China provides that citizens of that nation enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and demonstration. Section 39 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides that every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides that Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press. . . . And Article 19 of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

As a founding member of the United Nations, Iran has the ability and responsibility to honor the essential human right to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through the media that is recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and to likewise construe Article 24 of its own Constitution to ensure that journalists are allowed to practice their profession freely, without government interference, intimidation or punishment.

We very much appreciate that you, as the head of your nation's judicial system, have pledged that Ms. Saberi's conviction will be considered at the appeals stage in a careful, quick and fair way, stating that fair examination of the case, especially at the appeal stage, is the defendant's right. Each day that Ms. Saberi remains in prison is a grave injustice that injures not only Ms. Saberi, but the people of Iran, and indeed the people of all nations. As Sa'adi, the great thirteenth-century Persian poet, wrote: All human beings are limbs of each other, having been created of one essence. When time afflicts a limb with pain the other limbs cannot at rest remain.

The world's nations will find no rest until all journalists are permitted to freely gather and report the news anywhere in the world, without fear of retribution or criminal prosecution. Accordingly, we respectfully request that you and your judicial system enforce the Iranian Constitution and international norms of due process and free speech and free press, reverse the conviction of Ms. Saberi, and release her.

Respectfully submitted,

Theodore J. Boutrous Jr. KatieLynn Townsend

Gibson, Dunn Crutcher LLP, Attorneys for The International Women's Media Foundation

CONTACT: Pearl Piatt Director of Communications, Gibson, Dunn Crutcher LLP for the International Women's Media Foundation +1-323-547-5129 ppiatt@gibsondunn.com

Pearl Piatt, Director of Communications of Gibson, Dunn Crutcher LLP, +1-323-547-5129, or ppiatt@gibsondunn.com, for International Women's Media Foundation / NOTE TO EDITORS: About Theodore J. Boutrous Jr. ; Theodore J. Boutrous, Jr., a partner in the Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. offices of Gibson, Dunn Crutcher, is Co-Chair of the firm's Appellate and Constitutional Law Group and its Media and Entertainment Group and Vice-Chair of the Crisis Management Group. Mr. Boutrous represents media organizations, reporters, and others in a wide array of First Amendment, access, subpoena, defamation, freedom of information, prior restraint, newsgathering and copyright matters. See below for a representative list of media cases he has handled. As both a crisis management strategist and a seasoned appellate and media lawyer, Mr. Boutrous has wide-ranging experience handling high-profile litigation, media relations and media legal issues. He routinely advises clients in planning how to respond, and in responding, to crises and other especially significant legal problems that attract the media spotlight and provides strategic counseling to address legal, legislative, regulatory and public relations aspects of such matters; About Gibson, Dunn Crutcher LLP; Gibson, Dunn Crutcher LLP is a leading international law firm. Consistently ranking among the world's top law firms in industry surveys and major publications, Gibson Dunn is distinctively positioned in today's global marketplace with more than 1,000 lawyers and 15 offices, including Los Angeles, New York, Washington, D.C., London, Paris, Munich, Brussels, Dubai, Singapore, Orange County, San Francisco, Palo Alto, Century City, Dallas and Denver. For more information, please visit www.gibsondunn.com