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Iran's President Calls for Fair Treatment of Detained Journalist

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad is urging the Iranian judiciary to allow American-journalist Roxana Saberi a full and fair defense during the appeal process of her conviction on espionage charges.

Iran's official English-language Press TV announced President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad had urged the country's judiciary to guarantee American journalist Roxana Saberi be able to defend herself to the full extent of the law.

Mr. Ahmedinejad made the request in a letter to the Tehran prosecutor's office, amid mounting world criticism of what appeared to be the shotgun trial of Saberi on charges of espionage.

The dual U.S.-Iranian national Roxana Saberi was sentenced to eight years in prison in a sentence meted out by an Iranian court holding session behind closed doors Saturday.

U.S. President Barack Obama says he is gravely concerned with her safety and well being. The president says the United States is working to make sure she is properly treated.

"She is an American citizen, and I have complete confidence that she was not engaging in any sort of espionage," said President Obama. "She is an Iranian-American who was interested in the country which her family came from, and it is appropriate for her to be treated as such and be released."

Saberi, a freelance reporter who has worked for National Public Radio and the BBC, was arrested in January, because her press credentials had expired. She was accused of the more serious charge of "spying for the United States" 10 days ago, and put on trial Monday.

The official Iranian news agency reported Iranian President Ahmedinejad's chief of staff wrote to Tehran Prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi about Saberi's case, as well as that of jailed Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan.

The letter, published Sunday, urged Mortazavi to "make sure that all the legal stages about the mentioned people be based on justice" and asked him to "personally make sure that the accused enjoy all freedoms and legal rights to defend themselves."

Saberi's attorney, Abdolsamad Khorramshahi, said he would appeal the eight-year sentence, telling Reuters news agency he hoped the judiciary would be "more accurate at the appeals stage," and that he be allowed freer access to his client.

Soazig Dollet of Paris-based Reporters Without Borders says Saberi's lawyer is keeping a low profile, so as not to antagonize Iran's judiciary system.

"I think there is a lot of pressure on the family and on the lawyer, because I think we've got many, many different stories on this case," said Dollett, "so we at Reporters Without Borders had contact with the lawyer yesterday. He confirmed things, but he really said that he does not want to talk to the press at least not to also put pressure on the judicial system, also."

Dollet also noted that there are many Iranian journalists who are in the country's prisons, and the world community should not just focus on Saberi. "Also, I would just like to remember that she is one case, but there are also many other Iranian journalists paying in Iran for charges of spying" said Dollet. "So, I think we also, as journalists, should focus on the others, too."

Saberi's mother, Akiko, told journalists she was concerned about her daughter's health, "because she is sick."