Saberi’s plea to be heard next week

TEHRAN: Iran’s judiciary announced on Tuesday it will soon hear an appeal for a US-Iranian reporter jailed on spying charges in a case that has alarmed the United States.

“There is going to be an appeal trial next week for Roxana Saberi,” judiciary spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi told reporters, without giving an exact date. The Iranian week begins on a Saturday.

He said the appeal would be held behind closed doors and that the bar association, the intelligence ministry and the prosecutor’s representative had been informed.

Saberi, 32, was sentenced last month by a Tehran revolutionary court to an eight-year jail term after being convicted of spying for Iran’s arch-foe, the United States, charges dismissed as baseless by Washington. She was initially arrested in January reportedly for buying alcohol, an illegal act in the Islamic republic, and is being detained in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison.

Saberi, who marked her birthday in prison last month, has been on hunger strike since April 21 in protest at the sentence and was briefly hospitalised on Friday, according to her family.

But Jamshidi today reiterated the judiciary’s denial that she was refusing to eat or that her health had been affected by the three-week-old action. “I have said before about Ms Saberi and I asked the deputy presecutor the day before yesterday. He said she is in perfect health. She is not on a hunger strike and she does not have any physical problem.”