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Iran orders quick, fair appeal for reporter sentenced as U.S. spy


TEHRAN, April 20 (RIA Novosti) - Iran's top judge has ordered a "quick and fair" appeal for U.S.-Iranian reporter Roxana Saberi, jailed last week to eight years for espionage, the Iranian Students News Agency reported on Monday.

Judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahrudi said all aspects of the case "should be fairly, accurately and quickly considered." The order came after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the journalist must have the legal right to defend herself.

Ahmadinejad sent a letter to Tehran Prosecutor General Saeed Mortazavi on Sunday calling for the administration of justice in the cases of two detained reporters, Roxana Saberi and Hossein Derakhshan, the IRNA agency reported.

U.S. President Barack Obama on Sunday expressed concern at the guilty verdict on charges of spying for the United States, handed down after a one-day trial in Tehran. He urged Tehran to free the reporter, saying she was not a spy.

"She is an American citizen, and I have complete confidence that she was not engaging in any sort of espionage," Obama said.

Saberi, 31, denies any involvement in espionage. She holds dual U.S.-Iranian citizenship and has spent six years in Iran, studying, writing a book, and working as a freelance journalist for media outlets including the BBC.

According to the BBC, Saberi originally faced the less serious accusation of buying alcohol, and later of working as a reporter without a valid press card. Then the charge of spying was laid and in less than two weeks she was sentenced by the Revolutionary Court after a one-day closed-door trial in Tehran.

Saberi has been in jail in Tehran since January. The BBC quoted her father as saying that she had been tricked into confessing.

Derakhshan, a Canadian-Iranian blogger known as Hoder, was detained in November 2008 but has not been charged.

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