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Iran action suggests it may ease jailed American journalist's 8-year sentence

Reza Saberi, the father of imprisoned Iranian-American journalist Roxana, and his wife Akiko in Tehran yesterday. Reza Saberi, the father of imprisoned Iranian-American journalist Roxana, and his wife Akiko in Tehran yesterday. (Raheb Homavandi/ Reuters)
Associated Press / April 22, 2009
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TEHRAN - Iran may reconsider an eight-year jail term for an American journalist during her appeal, the judiciary spokesman said yesterday in an indication her sentence will be commuted.

The statement was the latest hint Iran could be backing off from the imprisonment of 31-year-old Roxana Saberi 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 decadeslong diplomatic standoff. The United States has called the accusations against Saberi, a dual American-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.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Robert Wood said the United States wanted to see "a transparent appeals process."