Saberi Lawyer Expects ‘Remarkable Change’ After 5-hour Closed-door Appeal Hearing

The lawyer representing Roxana Saberi in an Iranian appeals court today has expressed hope, saying he is “optimistic she will be acquitted”. Ms. Saberi was convicted in April by an Iranian court of spying for the US, a charge related to her conducting journalistic activity without a government-issued license to do so. There has been an international outcry calling for her unconditional release, and Iran’s president ordered the courts to hear her appeal.

According to the AP:

“I am hopeful and optimistic that there will be a remarkable change to her verdict,” Abdolsamad Khorramshahi said outside the courthouse. “My colleague and I were allowed to defend our client in a favorable atmosphere. Our client also had enough time to defend herself.”

Khorramshahi’s reference to the court’s atmosphere and time to defend stems from heavy criticism levied against the court that convicted Saberi. It was reported at the time that the initial conviction came after a closed-door hearing of only 15 minutes, in which her lawyer was not permitted to state the case for her defense and evidence both for and against her was not adequately examined.

Civil rights lawyers within Iran have complained that the case clearly violates Iran’s own provisions for due process and have called for a reversal based on those grounds. Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, has said the court should engage in a full and impartial review, but has also said he cannot intervene, as the courts are independent under the Iranian system.

There had been speculation diplomatic pressure might somehow lead the state to withdraw all charges, nullifying the conviction, but such a process has been seen to be outside the norms in Iranian judicial review. But on 19 April, Ahmedinejad did “intervene”, urging the top Iranian prosecutor to permit the journalist to defend herself at her appeal.

VOA reports:

Saberi’s father Reza Saberi says the journalist ended a hunger strike Monday at Evin prison after refusing to eat for nearly two weeks. Witnesses to Sunday’s closed-door proceedings say Saberi appeared tired and thin when she arrived at the courthouse.

Saberi’s lawyer told the press today that he believes a verdict may come as early as this evening, though the verdict was not initially expected for several days. Iranian officials have said it is not clear there will be a ruling today. Saberi has been described as looking gaunt and frail, after her near three-week hunger strike to protest her imprisonment.

Reza Saberi has also said that, though he believes this appeal process will judge his daughter “more moderately”, he fears that she may starve herself to death if the 8-year sentence is upheld. No evidence against the Iranian-American journalist has been made public to date, and the US government, including Sec. of State Clinton and Pres. Obama himself, has been firm that the charges are “baseless”.

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