Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Saberi parents welcome Iran signs

The parents of jailed US-Iranian reporter Roxana Saberi have welcomed comments by Iran's judiciary chief calling for a swift and fair appeal.

Her father Reza, called the remarks a positive sign and said the appeal could be heard as early as next week.

Ms Saberi, 31, was sentenced to eight years imprisonment after being convicted of spying on 18 April.

She denies involvement in espionage, and her father says she was tricked into a false confession.


US President Barack Obama has expressed concern at the sentence, handed down after a one-day trial.

Small cell

On Monday Ms Saberi's parents visited their daughter in jail for the first time since her sentence was announced.

She was physically frail but her mental state was good, her father told the BBC.

She was being held in a 3m (10ft) by 3m cell, which she shared with two other women, he said.

The only light came from an opening high on the wall and the three women had to sleep on the floor.

Reza Saberi welcomed Monday's call by judiciary chief Ayatollah Shahrudi for Ms Saberi's appeal to be "fairly, accurately and quickly considered".

His order came after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Ms Saberi must have the legal right to defend herself.

Correspondents say it is not clear whether this means the journalist will receive clemency, or whether the Iranian authorities are merely stressing they are dealing fairly with her case.

Roxana Saberi originally faced the less serious accusation of buying alcohol, and later of working as a reporter without a valid press card.

Then, in a period of less than two weeks, the charge of spying was introduced, and she was tried and sentenced behind closed doors by the Revolutionary Court in Tehran.

Few details of the trial or the specifics of the charges have been released.

Ms Saberi, who holds dual US and Iranian citizenship, has spent six years in Iran studying and writing a book.

She has been in jail in Tehran since January.