Iranian appeals court to hear US reporter's case

Officials suggest Roxana Saberi's prison term may be reduced.

Saberi in Teheran 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Saberi in Teheran 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
An Iranian appeals court on Sunday will review the case against an American journalist jailed in Iran for allegedly spying for the United States, the country's official news agency said. Roxana Saberi, a 32-year-old dual Iranian-American national, was convicted last month of espionage and sentenced to eight years in prison after a one-day trial behind closed doors. The case has caused tensions between the US and Iran at a time when President Barack Obama has said he wants to engage America's longtime adversary. Washington has called the charges against Saberi baseless and demanded she be freed. Iran has promised a complete review of the case on appeal and insisted Saberi will be allowed to provide a full defense at that point. Officials have suggested that her prison term could be reduced. Iranian judiciary spokesman, Ali Reza Jamshidi, said the appeals court will hear her case on Sunday, but it was unclear when its ruling would be issued, the IRNA news agency reported. He said three judges will review her appeal. "I believe the ruling by the appeals court will be fair and based on the law," Jamshidi said. But he also stressed that he could not "predict if she will be acquitted or the current verdict will remain in force." Saberi's lawyer and father were not immediately available for comment. It was not known what time the appeals hearing would begin and whether it would be a closed session. Most espionage-related cases in Iran are not open to the public. Saberi, who grew up in Fargo, North Dakota, moved to Iran six years ago and worked as a freelancer for several news outlets including National Public Radio and the British Broadcasting Corp. She had gone on a hunger strike in prison to protest her jailing but ended it earlier this month after two weeks for health reasons. The former 1997 Miss North Dakota was arrested in late January and initially accused of working without press credentials. But an Iranian judge later leveled the far more serious charge of espionage. Iran has released few details about her case. Iran's intelligence minister has said that the initial investigation was done by an expert on security and counterespionage at the Intelligence Ministry before her case was referred to court. Her Iranian-born father and her mother have traveled from Fargo to Iran to help seek her release. Her father, Reza Saberi, has said his daughter had been working on a book about the culture and people of Iran, and hoped to finish it and return to the United States this year. The United States broke off ties with Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the takeover of the US Embassy in Teheran by hard-line students.