Three judges to hear Saberi's appeal against spy charges in Iran

Three judges to hear Saberi's appeal against spy charges in Iran Tehran - The head of the Tehran court said Friday that three judges were likely to preside over the appeal court of Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi, who was sentenced to an eight-year jail term last week on charges of spying for the US government.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and judiciary head Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi-Shahroudi called for a fair appeal court for Saberi and said she should be provided with all possible legal facilities.

Tehran court head Alireza Avaei told ISNA news agency that considering the calls by the president and judiciary leader, at least two or three judges would preside in the appeal court and that Saberi would have a just and fair trial.

Saberi is currently assisted by one lawyer but Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi said that she will also join her defence team.

Iran's intelligence service chief Mohseni Ejehi last Tuesday said Saberi would be treated as an Iranian and not as a US national.

In Iran, dual nationality is not acknowledged but is tolerated. In official cases, however, only the nationality of the father is counted and not the citizenship of either the mother or that of a third country.

Saberi, 31, has an Iranian father and Japanese mother and is a US citizen.

US President Barack Obama earlier this week rejected the spying charges but Tehran called on Obama, as a law graduate, to respect the Iranian judiciary's decisions and independence and not to politicise the Saberi case.

Saberi, a reporter for US National Public Radio, originally faced less serious charges of buying alcohol and of working without a valid press card.

She has been in Tehran's Evin prison since January, following her arrest for buying a bottle of wine. Both buying and consuming alcohol are forbidden in Islamic Iran.

But the judiciary then 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.

Saberi's Iranian father and Japanese mother are currently in Tehran and plan to stay until they are allowed to take their daughter back home to the US state of North Dakota. (dpa)