Iran's judiciary denies journalist in spy case is on hunger strike

Iran's judiciary denies journalist in spy case is on hunger strike Tehran - The Iranian judiciary on Tuesday denied that the Iranian-American journalist who was convicted of spying for the United States was on a hunger strike in prison, the ISNA news agency reported. Roxana Saberi's father, Reza, had told the foreign press in Tehran that his daughter embarked on a hunger strike last Tuesday and planned to continue until her release. He voiced deep concern over he deteriorating physical condition.

"She is not on hunger strike and her health condition is good," judiciary spokesman Alireza Jamshidi said.

"Her father visited her on her birthday (Sunday) and gave her a present," he added.

Tehran revolutionary court judge Hassan Hadad has also categorically denied that Saberi was on a hunger strike.

"There is no hunger strike and those who raised the issue just want to misuse the case for propaganda purposes," Hadad said on Monday.

The 31-year-old reporter for US National Public Radio, was sentenced to eight years in prison last week on charges of spying for the US government. She is appealing her conviction.

Confirming that the appeal had already been submitted, Hadad said: "If the initial verdict was modifiable, then it will be modified." He gave no further details.

Both Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the head of the judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi-Shahroudi, have indicated their opposition to the rather harsh sentence and called for a fair appeal court, reportedly to be presided over by three judges.

Tehran has however stressed that the Saberi case was an internal matter and any interference by foreign states was therefore irrelevant.

"Saberi has herself confirmed her Iranian nationality and will therefore be treated as Iranian and according to Iranian laws," Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi said Monday.

In Iran, dual nationality is not acknowledged but is tolerated. In official cases, however, only the nationality of the subject's father is taken into account.

Saberi is a US citizen. Her father is Iranian and her mother, Japanese.

"The case has therefore nothing to do with foreign states and any interference in the local legal procedures would be against international norms," Ghasghavi said.

Saberi's lawyer, Abdolsamad Khoramshahi, is to be assisted by Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi and two more attorneys who have, however, not yet been allowed to visit her in jail to get the signature for the mandate.

She has been in Tehran's Evin prison since January, following her arrest on charges of buying a bottle of wine.

Saberi, originally faced less serious charges of buying alcohol and of working without a valid press card. Both buying and consuming alcohol is forbidden in Islamic Iran.

But the judiciary later charged her with espionage, and the Tehran prosecutor's office announced last week that Saberi's case was sent to a revolutionary court which decides in cases involving offences against national security.(dpa)