Iranian Court Hears Appeal of Jailed U.S. Journalist

Roxana Saberi's lawyer said Sunday that he is optimistic that there will be a "remarkable change" to the verdict rendered last month against the jailed U.S. journalist.

After a five-hour closed-door hearing before an appeals court, lawyer Abdolsamad Khorramshahi told reporters outside the courthouse that he and his colleague were allowed "adequate time" to defend 32-year-old Saberi in a "favorable atmosphere."

"Our client also had enough time to defend herself," he added.

North Dakota native Saberi, who has dual U.S.-Iranian citizenship, was convicted of spying for the United States last month after a closed-door hearing that her father said only lasted 15 minutes. She was originally arrested in January for purchasing alcohol – which is illegal in Iran – but charged on April 9 of espionage.

Since the leveling of the much more serious charge, U.S. officials have repeatedly denied the allegations as "baseless" and called for Saberi's release.

Saberi had moved to Iran about six years ago to learn more about her cultural heritage while working as a freelance journalist for news organizations including the National Public Radio (NPR), BBC, ABC and Fox.

According to Iran's foreign ministry, Saberi's press credentials had been revoked in 2006 and she had since been working illegally. Her parents, however, say Saberi was writing a book when she was arrested and that she had hoped to finish it and return to the United States "for good" this year.

While Iran has promised a complete review of the case on appeal and officials have suggested that the court could reduce Saberi's prison term or even overturn the conviction, Iran's judiciary spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi stressed that he could not "predict if she will be acquitted or the current verdict will remain in force."

But Jamshidi did say that he believed "the ruling by the appeals court will be fair and based on the law," according to the country's official news agency.

Meanwhile, Saberi's father, whose Iranian birth allowed Saberi her dual citizenship, said that he believed "the case will be handled more moderately this time" by the appeals court.

"I hope the court will find my daughter innocent," Reza Saberi said outside the courthouse.