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Iran Says Appeal of Jailed US Journalist to be Heard Next Week


An Iranian appeals court will hear the case of American journalist Roxana Saberi who was convicted of spying for the United States next week, according to the country's judiciary spokesman. Her family, in Tehran to help win her freedom, says that she is very weak from an ongoing hunger strike.

The weeks-old saga of imprisoned U.S.-Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi, who was convicted by an Iranian court on charges of spying appears to be nearing a turning point. Iran's judicial spokesman indicated her appeal would be heard, next week.

Judiciary spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi says the proceedings of the appeal will be open to experts from the Iranian bar association. Iran has been severely criticized for slip-shod procedures in her initial trial.

Saberi's father Reza, in Tehran with his wife Akiko to visit his daughter in prison and to help win her release, says she has been continuing a hunger strike for two weeks. He says saw Roxana on Monday.

"Is [she] OK? I do not know. We saw her yesterday. She was very weak and she still continues her hunger strike, and the case will be heard next week," he said.

Judiciary spokesman Jamshidi stressed Saberi's case "has been referred to an appeals court, where it is being studied," adding that a "[hearing] date has been set for next week."

Lucie Morillon of Reporters Without Borders in Washington says that the group is doing everything it can, in as many countries as possible, to support Saberi and to help win her freedom:

"Reporters Without Borders USA members were on strike for 24 hours and they started it on May 3rd, World Press Freedom day. Now, it is an international movement and we have been doing the rotation between Reporters Without Borders in our headquarters in Paris and abroad. We have been contacted by people in the US who have been telling us that they also want to start a hunger strike, so it looks like the movement is still going on," he said.

Morillon added that other journalists are concerned about Saberi's deteriorating health.

"We know that Roxanne is very determined. We have told her that she does not need to continue the hunger strike, that we are doing it for her. We are very worried about her health.

Now, it has been almost two weeks and it is getting to the point where her life could be in danger, and we really want to give her an exit solution ... that she knows she does not have to continue it, that other people can do it for her. I know that she was very sensitive about the fact that other people were supporting her abroad. It really meant a lot to her. Let's hope that she will take the decision to stop the hunger strike," he said.

Iran's judicial spokesman insists Saberi is "not on a hunger strike" and that she is "in good shape," despite reports she was hospitalized last week, after she intensified her strike and stopped drinking water.

The Saberi case has been the source of mounting tension between the United States and Iran in recent weeks, despite attempts by the Obama administration to open a dialogue with the Islamic Republic, following a 30-year hiatus in diplomatic relations.

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