TEHRAN, (Reuters) – Jailed Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi has ended her hunger strike in a Tehran prison after refusing food for two weeks, her father said on Wednesday.
The 32-year-old started eating again on Monday after beginning a hunger strike on April 21 in protest against her eight-year jail sentence on charges of spying for the United States, her father Reza Saberi told Reuters.
Reza Saberi, who said on Tuesday his daughter was “very weak”, said he and others had urged her to start eating again after she only consumed two dates and some water with a little sugar during her 14-day fast.
“She has stopped her hunger strike … We are very relieved and happy that she stopped. We were very worried about her health,” he said. He was speaking a day after a judiciary spokesman said an Iranian court would hold a hearing next week on the freelance reporter’s appeal against her sentence, imposed on April 18.
The Islamic Republic’s judiciary has denied that Saberi, who is held in Tehran’s Evin jail, was on hunger strike and said she was in good health. Her case could complicate Washington’s efforts towards reconciliation with Iran after three decades of mutual mistrust.
The two countries are locked in a dispute over nuclear work the West fears is aimed at making bombs, which Tehran denies.
The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, who has offered a new engagement with Iran if it “unclenches its fist”, says the espionage charges against Saberi are baseless and has demanded her release.
U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Wood said on Tuesday the United States was concerned about her health following the hunger strike reports.
“It’s very troubling. And we’re working hard to try to do what we can,” Wood said in Washington.
Saberi’s lawyer Abdolsamad Khorramshahi has expressed optimism she will be acquitted or her sentence reduced after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called on the judiciary last month to ensure she has full legal rights to defend herself.
Khorramshahi has said the appeal court session is expected to be held next Monday or Tuesday. Reza Saberi said Tuesday was the likely date. The judiciary says the hearing will be closed to the public.
A citizen of both the United States and Iran, the U.S.-born journalist was arrested in January for working in Iran after her press credentials had expired in 2006.
Four U.S. members of the media watchdog Reporters Without Borders began a hunger strike on Sunday outside the U.N. headquarters in New York to press for the release of Saberi, who has worked for the BBC and the U.S. National Public Radio.