Iranian court hears appeal for U.S. journalist

Roxana Saberi records video in Tehran, Iran, in a photo taken in September 2003.
An Iranian court started an appeal hearing Sunday for a U.S. journalist imprisoned in Tehran, the woman’s father told CNN.

Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi was convicted in April on espionage charges in a one-day trial that was closed to the public. She was sentenced to eight years in prison. Iranian authorities have said they will make sure her appeals process is quick and fair. “It usually takes a day or two after the court convenes for the verdict to be issued,” said Reza Saberi, Roxana’s father. Roxana Saberi was detained in January after initially being accused of buying a bottle of wine and working as a journalist without proper accreditation, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, an advocacy group. Saberi has lived in Iran since 2003 and reported for National Public Radio, the BBC and ABC News until her press credentials were revoked in 2006, the CPJ said. She continued to file short news items with government permission, according to NPR.

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“Without press credentials and under the name of being a reporter, she was carrying out espionage activities,” Hassan Haddad, a deputy public prosecutor, told the Iranian Students News Agency. Authorities said Saberi confessed. Her father said he thinks she was coerced into making damaging statements. Saberi went on a two-week hunger strike to protest her detention, but she ended it Monday after her parents visited her in Tehran’s Evin Prison and pleaded with her to stop, Reza Saberi told CNN. At one point during the hunger strike, she was brought to a hospital and fed intravenously, her father said. President Obama, as well as other U.S. and international officials, have denounced her detention and sentencing. Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian human rights activist, has joined the cause to free Saberi. Ebadi’s law firm agreed to represent Saberi in her appeals process but attorneys were blocked from meeting her on six occasions, Ebadi told the CPJ. The attorneys were trying to meet with Saberi so she could sign documents to make them part of her legal defense team, Ebadi said.