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Iran raises hopes for journalist

IRAN'S judiciary spokesman said yesterday that an eight-year jail term for an American journalist may be reconsidered on appeal, an indication her sentence will be commuted.

Ali Reza Jamshidi's statement was a rare prediction about a case from the judiciary and was the latest hint Iran could be backing off from the imprisonment of 31-year-old Roxana Saberi on charges of spying for the United States.

The case has been a source of tension with the US at a time when President Barack Obama is trying to open a dialogue with Iran in an effort to end a decades-long diplomatic standoff. The US has called the accusations against Saberi, a dual American-Iranian citizen, baseless and has demanded her release.

"We can't influence the judge's verdict but hope the verdict will be reconsidered at the appeals court," the official IRNA news agency quoted Jamshidi as saying.

Meanwhile, Iran's Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi said Saberi had been interrogated by counterespionage experts before her case was referred to the court.

"Initial investigation was carried out by an expert on security and counterespionage affairs at the Intelligence Ministry," Ejehi was quoted as saying. "The expert presented a report to the judiciary. The court investigated the report and found her guilty."


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