Iran's Judiciary Chief Orders Full Investigation for Jailed U.S. Journalist

Iran's judiciary chief on Monday ordered a full investigation into jailed U.S. journalist Roxana Saberi's case during the appeals process.

The 31-year-old dual American-Iranian citizen, was sentenced to eight years in an Iranian prison on charges of spying for the United States.

Her parents, Reza and Akiko Saberi say their daughter is not a spy and demand Iran's judiciary heed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's call that she be allowed to offer a full defense during her appeal.

Abdul-Samad Khoramshahi, her lawyer said in a telephone interview from Tehran with the Wall Street Journal, that he welcomed Ahmadinejad's intervention and hoped for a fair hearing during the appeals process.

"I will file an appeal next week," said Khoramshahi. "I was with Roxana when the court issued the verdict, and she is holding up well given the circumstances." He added that Shirin Ebadi, Iran's top human-rights lawyer and a Noble Peace Prize Laureate, would join the defense team at the family's request.

Saberi's sentencing on Saturday prompted global outrage, from the White House to journalist associations, calling for her immediate release and accusing Iran of not appropriately applying justice.

President Barack Obama said he's "gravely concerned" about the safety and well-being of Saberi and called for her release from an Iranian prison.

"She is an American citizen and I have complete confidence that she was not engaging in any sort of espionage," Obama said. "She is an Iranian American who was interested in the country which her family came from. And it is appropriate for her to be treated as such and to be released."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Monday for her "speedy release."

Saberi's case has been an irritant in U.S.-Iran relations at a time when President Obama is offering to start a dialogue. Her sentence marked the first time an Iranian-American journalist has been convicted of espionage in Iran.

A few days before Saberi's sentence was announced, Ahmadinejad gave the clearest signal yet that Iran too was willing to start a new relationship with the U.S.

Saberi's father said his daughter was not allowed a proper defense during her one-day trial behind closed doors a week ago. He also said she was tricked into making incriminating statements by officials who told her they would free her if she did.

Saberi was arrested in late January and initially accused of working without press credentials. But earlier this month, an Iranian judge leveled a far more serious allegation, charging her with spying for the United States.

The Fargo, North Dakota native had been living in Iran for six years and had worked as a freelance reporter for several news organizations including National Public Radio and the British Broadcasting Corp.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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