Reuters: Iran said on Monday an Iranian-American journalist jailed for espionage had the right to appeal against her eight-year sentence, but that the United States should respect rulings issued by Iranian courts.
TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran said on Monday an Iranian-American journalist jailed for espionage had the right to appeal against her eight-year sentence, but that the United States should respect rulings issued by Iranian courts.
U.S. President Barack Obama said on Sunday he was "deeply concerned" for the safety of jailed freelance reporter Roxana Saberi and urged Tehran to free her, saying he was confident she was not involved in spying.
Saturday's jailing of Saberi on charges of spying for the United States could add to U.S.-Iranian tension at a time when Obama's administration is trying to engage the Islamic state diplomatically, following three decades of mutual mistrust.
Asked about Obama's comments, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi told a news conference: "It is an international norm that one should respect the rulings issued by the court."
He added: "I recommend that as long as you have not studied the contents of the case one should not just express his views … I'm sure some American officials have also studied law."
Qashqavi's remarks were translated by Iran's English-language Press TV.
"But I should emphasize that we take into consideration all the legal issues, including the right of appeal, and this is a right that is preserved for Roxana Saberi," he said.
Defense lawyer Abdolsamad Khorramshahi has said he will appeal against the verdict on Saberi, a U.S.-born freelance journalist who has worked for the BBC, U.S. National Public Radio (NPR) and other international media.
In a statement welcomed by Khorramshahi, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday urged Iran's judiciary to ensure that Saberi enjoys her legal right to defend herself and said the legal process should be based on justice.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said releasing Saberi, 31, would serve as a goodwill gesture.
Saberi, who is a citizen of both the United States and Iran, was arrested in January for working in Iran after her press credentials had expired.
Her father, Reza Saberi, told NPR on Saturday she had been coerced into statements that she later retracted.
Reporters Without Borders, the Paris-based media rights group, has called Saberi's conviction "unjust under the Iranian criminal code" and said her lawyer was not with her when she appeared before the judges for the single hearing on April 13.
Washington cut ties with Iran shortly after the Islamic revolution in 1979 but Obama has offered a new beginning of engagement if the Iranian government "unclenches its fist."
Iran says it wants to see a real switch in Washington's policies away from those of former President George W. Bush, who led a drive to isolate the country because of nuclear work the West suspects has military aims, a charge Iran denies.
(Writing by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Richard Balmforth)