TEHRAN (AFP) — Iran's judiciary said on Tuesday an appeals court would reconsider US-Iranian reporter Roxana Saberi's eight-year jail sentence on spying charges, the state news agency IRNA reported.
"The issued verdict will be reconsidered in the appeals court," judiciary spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi said, quoted by IRNA. However, he added: "We cannot influence the judge's ruling because the judge is independent."
Saberi's lawyer, Abdolsamad Koramshahi, told AFP on Tuesday that the appeal would be lodged at the end of this week.
Saberi, 31, was convicted by an Iranian revolutionary court in a closed-door trial last week of spying for the United States, which along with Israel is Tehran's main foe.
In an unprecedented move on Sunday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for "justice" for the journalist and said she should be given the right to defend herself.
And Iran's judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahrudi has ordered a "quick and fair" appeal for Saberi.
But human rights lawyer Abdolfatah Soltani, who is to join the defence team with Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi and another lawyer, complained on Tuesday that prison officials have prevented Saberi from signing papers with them.
"The officials at ward 209 of Evin prison prevented the lawyer from meeting Ms Saberi and signing the attorney papers" on April 19, Soltani said in a letter to Shahrudi carried on the website of the Human Rights Defenders Centre.
"Is it not considered a violation of Ms Saberi's basic rights?" he asked.
The centre, headed by Ebadi and formed by five prominent lawyers including Soltani, has defended dozens of activists, dissidents and journalists in recent years.
Its Tehran office was shut down in a police raid in December.
Saberi's father Reza has said that she was "tricked into believing that she would be released if she cooperated."
"Roxana said in court that her earlier confessions were not true... and her denial is documented in her case but apparently they did not pay attention to it," he said.
Iran's decision to charge Saberi came despite calls by the United States and European Union for her release.
The verdict, made public on Saturday, disappointed US President Barack Obama, who denied that Saberi was a spy and demanded her release.
"She is an American citizen and I have complete confidence that she was not engaging in any sort of espionage," Obama said.
The European Union's Czech presidency voiced "serious concern" on Thursday about espionage charges against Saberi, calling on Tehran to respect human rights.
"The presidency of the EU expresses its serious concern at the developments in the case of Roxana Saberi following the announcement that she has been charged with espionage," it said.
Saberi has been held since late January, when she was initially reported to have been arrested for buying alcohol, an illegal act in the Islamic republic.
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.
In March, the foreign ministry said Saberi's press card was revoked in 2006 and that she had been working in Iran "illegally" since then.
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 Obama proposed better ties with Tehran.
Several US-Iranians, including academics, have been detained on security charges in recent years, but they were released after several months behind bars.
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