11 May 2009

Iran court hears journalist's appeal

9:06 am on 11 May 2009

A court in Iran has heard an appeal from jailed Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi, two days earlier than originally expected.

Ms Saberi, 32, was sentenced to eight years in prison after she was convicted of spying for the US. She denied the charge.

The freelance reporter's lawyer Abdolsamad Khorramshahi said the court had ended a one-day session and would issue its verdict in the coming days.

"I'm hopeful and optimistic that there will be fundamental changes in the sentence," he said.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has publicly called on the judiciary to ensure she was granted her full legal rights.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki last week said the review of Ms Saberi's case would be based on "justice and human and Islamic kindness."

Ms Saberi, a citizen of both the United States and Iran, was arrested in late January for working in the Islamic country after her press credentials had expired. She was later charged with espionage.

The case could complicate Washington's efforts towards reconciliation with the Islamic Republic after three decades of mutual mistrust.

The United States says the espionage charges against Ms Saberi, who has reported for the BBC and the US National Public Radio, were baseless and has demanded her immediate release.

US President Barack Obama has expressed concern for her safety.