Ahmadinejad calls for "fairness" for Iranian-American journalist

Other News Materials 19 April 2009 17:10 (UTC +04:00)

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday called for "fairness" for Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi, who has been sentenced by an Iranian court to eight years in prison for spying for the United States.

His request was made in a letter sent by presidential office head Abdol-Reza Sheikholeslami to Tehran's general prosecutor Saaid Mortazavi, Iran's official news agency IRNA reported.

"The president has stressed that the case Roxana Saberi should be followed with full preciseness and fairness and in line with all legal norms, and you (prosecutor) should personally make sure that all the rights of the accused are respected and that she has legal defence assistance," the letter said.

Saberi, 31, a reporter for US National Public Radio, was sentenced after a closed-door trial in Tehran, her lawyer Abdolsamad Khorramshahi told reporters on Saturday, indicating her intention to appeal the case.

IRNA quoted a judiciary official as confirming the verdict and saying that Saberi's lawyer had 20 days to appeal.

Saberi originally faced the less serious accusation of buying alcohol and of working without a valid press card. She has been in Tehran's Evin prison since January following her arrest on charges of buying a bottle of wine. Both buying and consuming alcohol is forbidden in Islamic Iran.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi later said she was arrested for pursuing press activities without the obligatory press accreditation by the Culture Ministry, dpa reported.

The judiciary, however, then charged her with espionage, and Tehran's deputy prosecutor Hassan Haddad announced last week that Saberi's case was sent to a revolutionary court which decides in cases involving offences against national security.

Haddad also claimed that Saberi had accepted all charges.

Saberi's Iranian father and Japanese mother are currently in Tehran and plan to stay until they take their daughter back home to North Dakota.

Both US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed deep concern over the journalist's fate and their disappointment over the verdict.