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Iranian appeals court to rule on case of jailed U.S. journalist

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  • NEW: Appeals court decision on Roxana Saberi due next week, lawyer says
  • Saberi was convicted on espionage charges, sentenced to eight years in prison
  • U.S., international officials have denounced Saberi's sentence
  • Saberi recently ended two-week hunger strike at parents' request
From Shirzad Bozorgmehr
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TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- The lawyer for imprisoned Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi said Sunday that the court will issue its verdict on her appeal next week.

Lawyer Abdolsamad Khorramshahi spoke after the court of appeals completed a five-hour session on the case. The Iranian week begins on Saturday.

Saberi's lawyer told the state news agency, IRNA, that he and Roxana's other lawyer, Saleh Nikbakht, were allowed enough time by the court to properly defend their client.

"After hearing the two sides' arguments, one of the [three] judges declared that the hearing had ended and that the verdict would be issued next week," he said.

Saberi's lawyer added, "Considering the way today's session went, I am optimistic that fundamental changes will be made in the case of Ms. Saberi, which will be to her benefit."

Saberi was convicted last month on espionage charges in a one-day trial that was closed to the public. She was sentenced to eight years in prison.

"It usually takes a day or two after the court convenes for the verdict to be issued," said her father, Reza Saberi.

Iranian authorities have said they will make sure her appeals process is quick and fair. Because three judges are reviewing the case, "more attention will be paid and the process would be meticulous," Iranian judiciary spokesman Alireza Jamshidi said Saturday, according to IRNA.

Saberi was detained in January after initially being accused of buying a bottle of wine and working as a journalist without proper accreditation, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, an advocacy group.

Saberi has lived in Iran since 2003 and reported for international news organizations, including National Public Radio, the BBC and ABC News until her press credentials were revoked in 2006, the Committee to Protect Journalists said. She continued to file short news items, according to NPR.

"Without press credentials and under the name of being a reporter, she was carrying out espionage activities," Hassan Haddad, a deputy public prosecutor, told the Iranian Student's News Agency.

Authorities said Saberi confessed. Her father has said he thinks she was coerced into making damaging statements.

Saberi went on a two-week hunger strike to protest her detention, but ended it last Monday after her parents visited her in prison and pleaded with her to stop, Reza Saberi told CNN.

At one point during the hunger strike, she was hospitalized and fed intravenously, her father said.

Saberi's case has prompted denunciations from President Obama, as well as other U.S. and international officials.

Jamshidi criticized the U.S. position on Saberi's case, according to IRNA, saying: "The U.S. enmity towards Iran is in all possible dimensions. ... As the Europeans confess, the Americans have the worst human-rights record."

Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian human-rights activist, has voiced concern about Saberi's case. Ebadi's law firm agreed to represent Saberi during her appeals process, but attorneys were blocked from meeting her on six occasions, Ebadi told the Committee to Protect Journalists

All About Roxana SaberiIranEvin PrisonShirin Ebadi

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