Saturday, May 9, 2009

Iran to Hear Saberi's Appeal on Sunday, But Also Loses Vital Appeal Documents

An Iranian court will hear the appeal of imprisoned journalist Roxana Saberi on Sunday, her lawyer Abdolsamad Khorramshahi said Saturday.

Khoramshahi told Nazila Fathi of The New York Times that he was optimistic that Saberi would win either an acquittal or a reduced sentence, the earlier date could complicate her defense by giving her second lawyer less time to review the case.

Ms. Saberi’s father said last week that he had hired a new lawyer, Saleh Nikbakht, to defend Ms. Saberi along with her current lawyer, Mr. Khoramshahi. Mr. Saberi made the decision, he said, after he realized that another high-profile human rights lawyer was not allowed to meet with Ms. Saberi in prison to sign the paperwork for her appeal.

She eventually did sign the paperwork, which would allow her lawyers to look at her case file. But Mr. Nikbakht said Saturday that he was informed by the court that the paper she signed had been lost.

Mr. Nikbakht said he might not be able to defend Ms. Saberi if he was unable to read the case in time.

It is not clear how long it will take the court to render a ruling in the case of Saberi, who was sentenced to eight years in prison last month on espionage charges.

Iranian judiciary spokesman Alireza Jamshidi had previously announced that the appeal would be heard behind closed doors with representatives of the prosecutor’s office, the intelligence ministry and lawyers association in attendance

Saberi had been on a humger strike. But on May 4, when her parents visited her in Tehran’s Evin prison, she agreed to begin eating again at her father’s insistence and took two spoonfuls of yogurt. She began the hunder strike on April 21.

Iranian officials told the BBC that the reporter was never on a hunger strike.

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