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Asia-pacific

Court agrees to hear jailed journalist's appeal

Latest update : 2009-05-05

Iran's judiciary has announced that it will hear an appeal by an American-Iranian reporter jailed on spying charges. Roxana Saberi, 32, was sentenced last month to eight years in prison.

AFP - The Iranian judiciary announced on Tuesday that it will soon hear an appeal for a US-Iranian reporter jailed on spying charges in a case that has caused deep consternation in the United States.
   
"There is going to be an appeal trial next week for Roxana Saberi," judiciary spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi told reporters, without giving an exact date. The Iranian week begins on a Saturday.
   
He said the appeal would be held behind closed doors and that the bar association, the intelligence ministry and the prosecutor's representative had been informed.
   
Saberi, 32, was sentenced last month by a Tehran revolutionary court to an eight-year jail term after being convicted of spying for Iran's arch-foe, the United States, charges dismissed as baseless by Washington.
   
She was initially arrested in January reportedly for buying alcohol, an illegal act in the Islamic republic, and is being detained in Tehran's notorious Evin prison.
   
Saberi, who marked her birthday in prison last month, has been on hunger strike since April 21 in protest at the sentence and was briefly hospitalised on Friday, according to her family.
   
But Jamshidi on Tuesday reiterated the judiciary's denial that she was refusing to eat or that her health had been affected.
   
"I have said before about Ms Saberi and I asked the deputy presecutor the day before yesterday. He said she is in perfect health. She is not on a hunger strike and she does not have any physical problem," Jamshidi said.
   
"If she has a problem, we are obliged to treat it. I don't know if anything happened yesterday."
   
Saberi has said she would not stop her hunger strike until her release, according to her father Reza Saberi, who said she was taking only water or sugared-water and that she was briefly taken to the hospital clinic on Friday.
   
The verdict against the former US beauty queen is the harshest sentence ever meted out to a dual national on security charges in Iran, and comes just weeks after US President Barack Obama proposed better ties with Tehran.
   
Obama on Friday reiterated that he was "especially concerned" about Saberi and two other US women journalists detained in North Korea.
   
US-born Saberi, who is also of Japanese descent, has reported for US National Public Radio, the BBC and Fox News, and has lived in Iran for the past six years.
   
Four US members of the press freedom group, Reporters Without Borders, began a hunger strike on Sunday outside UN headquarters in New York, seeking Saberi's release.
   
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi said such protests were an "interference" in legal procedures.

Date created : 2009-05-05

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