TEHRAN, Iran - Iran may reconsider an eight-year jail term for an American journalist during her appeal, a judiciary spokesman said yesterday in an indication her sentence would be commuted.
The statement was the latest hint Iran could be backing off from the imprisonment of Roxana Saberi, 31, on charges of spying for the United States. On Monday, the judiciary chief ordered a full investigation into the case, a day after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urged Tehran's chief prosecutor to ensure Saberi be allowed a full defense during her appeal.
The case has been a source of tension with the United States at a time when President Obama is trying to open a dialogue with Iran to end a decades-long diplomatic standoff. The United States has called the accusations against Saberi, an American and Iranian citizen, baseless and demanded her release.
"We can't influence the judge's verdict [but hope] the verdict will be reconsidered at the appeals court," the official IRNA news agency quoted judiciary spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi as saying. The statement was seen as a rare prediction from the judiciary about a pending case.
State Department spokesman Robert Wood said the United States wanted to see "a transparent appeals process."
"We are working with our allies to press the government in Tehran to disclose fully the charges against Ms. Saberi and ensure that she is being treated properly," he said.
Saberi, who was born in the United States and grew up in Fargo, N.D., moved to Iran six years ago and worked as a freelance journalist for various news organizations, including National Public Radio and the BBC.