Jailed U.S. Journalist Goes on Hunger Strike in Iran

The father of the U.S. journalist who was convicted of espionage in Iran earlier this month says his daughter is on a hunger strike and was heading into the fifth day Saturday.

Reza Saberi told media that his 31-year-old daughter, Roxana Saberi of Fargo, N.D., told him in a very brief conversation over the phone that she started the hunger strike on Tuesday and plans not to end it until she is free from prison.

"I'm very worried," the elder Saberi reported Saturday.

Roxana Saberi had been convicted of spying for the United States after a one-day closed-door trial that even her Iranian-born father was not allowed to attend. Saberi was arrested in late January for purchasing alcohol – which is illegal in Iran – but accused earlier this month of spying for the United States.

Born and raised in the United States, Saberi had moved to Iran about six years ago to learn more about her cultural heritage. While there, she also worked as a freelance journalist for news organizations including the National Public Radio (NPR), BBC, ABC and Fox.

According to Iran's foreign ministry, Saberi's press credentials had been revoked in 2006 and she had since been working illegally. Her parents, however, say Saberi was writing a book when she was arrested and that she had hoped to finish it and return to the United States "for good" this year.

Furthermore, Saberi has dual citizenship – the result of her birth in the United States and her father's birth in Iran.

Saberi was scheduled to be the commencement speaker for her alma mater, Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., a school affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

The college's commencement is set for May 1.