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US journalist jailed in Iran ends hunger strike

TEHRAN, Iran – An American journalist jailed in Iran on charges of spying for the U.S. has ended her two-week hunger strike for health reasons, her father said Wednesday.

Roxana Saberi, a 32-year-old dual Iranian-American national was convicted last month of espionage and sentenced to eight years in prison after a one-day trial behind closed doors. The U.S. government has called the charges against her “baseless” and demanded she be freed.

“Roxana called last night to inform me that she has ended her hunger strike,” her father Reza Saberi told The Associated Press. “I’m relieved that she has done so to avoid a deterioration of her health.”

Saberi’s case has been an irritant in U.S.-Iran relations at a time when the Obama administration has said it wants to engage its longtime adversary in a dialogue. The case has also drawn the concern of press freedom groups.

Iran has promised a complete review of the case on appeal and insisted Saberi will be allowed to provide a full defense at that point, possibly an indication it wants to ease the tensions with the U.S. On Tuesday, the judiciary said the appeal will be heard next week and judiciary officials have suggested her jail term could be reduced.

But Iranian officials denied several times over the past two weeks that Saberi was even on a hunger strike.

Media freedom group Reporters Without Borders said she was briefly hospitalized on Friday in Evin prison, where she has been held since her arrest in January, after she intensified her hunger strike by refusing to drink water.

Saberi’s Iranian-born father said Roxana began a hunger strike April 21 to protest her imprisonment, vowing to keep it up until she was freed.

“My wife and I met her in Evin prison Monday morning and gave her some yogurt. We asked her to stop the hunger strike,” he said.

Saberi was born in New Jersey and raised in Fargo, North Dakota. She moved to Iran six years ago and worked as a freelance journalist for news organizations including National Public Radio and the British Broadcasting Corp. She received Iranian citizenship because her father was born in Iran.

She was arrested in late January and initially accused of working without press credentials. But earlier this month, an Iranian judge leveled the far more serious allegation of espionage.

Reporters Without Borders said it was relieved to learn Saberi had ended her hunger strike.

“The press freedom organization continues to call for the appeal against her conviction to be given a fair hearing and not any sham proceedings,” the statement read.

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