Imprisoned Journalist Roxana Saberi

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Roxana Saberi

Correction Appended: May 13, 2009

After two weeks of self-starvation, Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi ended her hunger strike at Tehran's Evin prison May 4 following news that an appeals hearing would be held next week regarding the 8-year prison sentence handed down by Iran's Revolutionary Court, which found her guilty of spying for the United States. Saberi, who was briefly hospitalized after she refused to drink water, has been imprisoned since January, when she was reportedly arrested in the nation's capital for trying to purchase a bottle of wine (possession of alcohol is illegal in Iran). Since her April 18 conviction, hundreds of journalists, students and professors have staged demonstrations demanding her release, while both President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have proclaimed her innocence.

Fast Facts:

• Born April 26, 1977 in Belleville, New Jersey to a Japanese mother and Iranian father. When she was 6 months old, the family moved to Fargo, North Dakota. She holds dual citizenship, in both Iran and the U.S.

• Graduated at the top of her class at Fargo North High School, where she played soccer and performed piano recitals, hobbies that she continued at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., where she studied mass communication.

• In 1997, Saberi entered the Miss North Dakota beauty pageant at the urging of a college instructor. She won, and became one of the final 10 contestants in that year's Miss America Pageant — the only finalist of Asian descent and the first recipient of the pageant's "Scholar Award."

• Obtained a master's degree in broadcast journalism from Northwestern University in Chicago, and another master's degree in international relations from Cambridge University. Before her arrest earlier this year, she had been pursuing a third master's degree, this one in Iranian studies.

• While at Northwestern University, she interviewed the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who recently said he applied for an Iranian visa so he could visit Saberi in prison. Human rights activist Shirin Ebadi, Iran's Nobel Peace Prize laurate, also agreed to join Saberi's cause as a defense attorney.

• Moved to Iran in 2003, where she worked as a freelance journalist for the BBC, Fox News and National Public Radio. After her arrest, her father, Reza Saberi, told the AP she had been working on a book about the culture and people of Iran, and had hoped to finish it and return to the U.S. by 2010.

• Contacted her father on Feb. 10 from an Iranian prison, where she said she was detained after buying a bottle of wine, an offense that normally warrants a fine or a few days in jail. For nearly a month, her parents opted not to publicize the news before going to the media on Mar. 1. The next day, Iran's judiciary announced that she was being held for working without proper press credentials.

• On Mar. 6, a day after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton demanded Saberi's release, an Iranian prosecutor told the Iranian Student News Agency that Ms. Saberi would be released from custody ''in the next few days.''

• On April 8, an Iranian judge announced that Saberi would stand trial on charges of spying for the U.S.

• Convicted of all charges on April 18 during a closed-door trial. Her lawyers soon file an appeal.

Quotes By:

"I never faced much discrimination or any problems like that. It was more that I was embarrassed to look differently and have parents from different countries. It took me awhile to learn that it's good to be different and it's important to respect others' differences."
— Talking to her local newspaper a day after beating 19 other contestants to become Miss North Dakota (Bismark Tribune, June 1997).

"The hard line newspapers say Iran should not give in to compromise, while the more moderate reformist newspapers say that Iran should always be willing to negotiate, and not risk too much isolation in the world."
— Writing about Iranian funding in Palestine (NPR, April 27, 2006).

Quotes About:

"From the other side of the ocean, the Americans have protested against her imprisonment, because she is an American citizen. But I say no, she is Iranian, she loves Iran."
— Saberi's fiancé, Iranian film director Bahman Ghobadi, in an open letter to the media pleading for her freedom (New York Times, April 22, 2009).

"I tried to dissuade her but she said, 'Not this time.'"
— Reza Saberi, on his daughter's decision to launch a hunger strike in protest of her conviction (ABC News, April 23, 2009).

"I am not a judge, and I do not pass judgment over judicial cases."
— Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, when asked if he would consider commuting Saberi's sentence as a gesture of goodwill to the U.S., adding, "I think Mr. Obama, as a sign of change and also to encourage friendship, should allow laws to be processed fairly and allow the judiciary to carry out its duties." (BBC, April 22, 2009).

"I am gravely concerned with her safety and well-being."
— President Barack Obama, saying that he has complete confidence that "she did not engage in espionage of any sort" (CNN, April 19, 2009).

"She said she liked to do stories on everyday life in Iran, so people could understand the culture. That's why this espionage thing makes no sense. She was not doing hot political stories."
— Cathy McMullen, one of Saberi's journalism instructors at Concordia College, on the puzzling nature of the charges (AP, April 9, 2009).

A Brief History of Hunger Strikes.

Audio Slideshow: Faces of Iran.

Photos: Into the Lives of Daily Life in Iran.

The initial version of this article wrongly stated that Saberi was born in Belleville, North Dakota.