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Iranian Court Hears Appeal by Jailed US-Iranian Journalist Roxana Saberi


The Iranian judiciary, under world pressure to revise the conviction of jailed U.S.-Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi on charges of "spying for the United States," has heard her appeal. Her attorney says he is optimistic that the court will revise the verdict.

An Iranian court has heard the appeal of jailed American journalist Roxana Saberi, who was convicted last month on espionage charges and sentenced to eight years in prison.

Her attorney, Abdolsamad Khorramshai, told reporters outside the court-house he is optimistic Saberi's sentence would be reduced. He also noted that he was able to present a credible defense, unlike during the first trial.

He says he and his colleague were given enough time to present Saberi's defense and she had enough time to defend herself. We told them all we had to say, he adds, and then they ended the session. The appeal verdict will probably come within the next few days.

Saberi's father Reza, who is in Tehran to help win the release of his daughter, indicated that her "mood was OK," following a two-week hunger strike she ended last week.

Members of Reporters Without Borders in Paris, as well as affiliates in the United States and Canada have also been waging a hunger strike to dramatize Saberi's plight.

Saberi, who worked for National Public Radio and the BBC, was arrested in January because her working papers had expired. She was later charged with "spying for the United States," before being convicted in what many have called a "sham trial."

Professor Fouad Ajami of the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies says Saberi is not the first Iranian-American to be caught up in this type of politically motivated show-trial:

"Miss Saberi is just a victim of this drawn-out drama between the United States and Iran - I mean, this is the dilemma of Iranian-Americans, many of them who have nostalgia for their ancestral land, and they have gone to Iran, and they have been picked up by the security services," said Fouad Ajami. "Their trials have always been show-trials and their ordeal has always been just simply a play thing of the Iranian regime. The Iranians will do what they will; if they set her free, it is in the interests of the Iranians to set her free. If they keep her in jail it is because they want to torment the Americans, yet another day."

Ajami says he believes the recent overture by President Barack Obama to resume a dialogue with Iran, after 30 years, will not succeed.

"I think that the Obama Administration is going to learn that its approach to Iran is going to come to naught," he said. "In truth, the Iranians have precisely the relationship with the United States that they want: just enough enmity to serve as a glue for the regime and not enough enmity to be a threat to the regime"

Ajami says Irans' policy is decided by one man.

"Iran's choice lies in the hands of the Supreme Guide, Ayatollah Khamenei, and he shows no interest in accommodation with the United States," said Ajami. "It takes two, if you will, to make this accommodation, and the Iranians have absolutely no interest. They will taunt the Obama Administration; they will keep them waiting, and I do not expect any great break-through in the relationship between the US and Iran."

Iran's theocrats, he says, are content with the prevailing "atmosphere of antagonism with the United States and he says they are content with their ongoing drive to pursue a "nuclear option."

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