Jackson plans mission to free Saberi

www.thestar.com, 23 April 2009

Rev Jesse Jackson was the first person imprisoned journalist Roxana Saberi interviewed. Now, he is planning a trip to Iran to seek her release.

Jackson, who has applied for a visa to get into Iran, said he was Saberi’s first interviewee when she was studying journalism at Northwestern University in the United States.

“On a personal level, 10 years ago she was a student there and she came to my office and interviewed me,” he told reporters after delivering a keynote address at a peace dialogue here yesterday.

“Little did I know that she would be in prison now. I will be trying to gain her freedom.”

He said his planned visit to try and secure the release of the US-Iranian journalist would be in his personal capacity

Saberi, 31, was sentenced in Iran last week to eight years’ in jail after she was convicted of spying for the United States.

In an unprecedented move on Sunday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for “justice” for Saberi and said she should be given the right to defend herself.

Jackson said he would not speak on behalf of US President Barack Obama or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as they had both made appeals as government officials.

“Our appeal is that of a free agent that has had some experience in resolving conflicts like this. We want to make a humanitarian appeal, a moral appeal to gain her release,” Jackson said.

Jackson has had extensive experience in negotiating the release of prisoners and hostages over the years in conflict areas like Syria, Cuba, Kuwait, Iraq and Kosovo.

He also urged Malaysians to use their connections with Iran, whether religious or political, to make a plea for Saberi’s release.

Jackson is the Rainbow/People United to Save Humanity coalition founder and president and former aide to civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King.

He delivered three speeches in Malaysia on the importance of equality and peace. He will be in Bangkok from Friday to deliver three more speeches.