TEHRAN, April 22 (UPI) — Iran’s president wouldn’t say whether his government would release the Iranian-American journalist sentenced to eight years in prison for spying.
“I am not a judge, and I do not pass judgment over judicial cases,” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in an interview with ABC News. “In Iran, the judiciary is independent. I have stressed like others she should be accorded her full rights.”
U.S. President Barack Obama expressed confidence that Roxana Saberi, whose parents live in North Dakota, was not a spy and was “”gravely concerned” for her well-being.
Ahmadinejad, asked whether Saberi would be released as gesture of goodwill, said Obama, as an gesture of wanting diplomatic change, “should allow laws to be processed fairly and allow the judiciary to carry out its duties. … I am sure she is not being mistreated.”
Meanwhile, Iranian human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shrin Ebadi joined Saberi’s legal defense team, CNN reported. The 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner agreed to join the team at the request of Saberi’s family
Ebadi oversees the Center for Defenders of Human Rights in Iran.
Saberi’s lawyers said they will appeal her conviction. Iran’s judiciary leader, Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi, ordered Tehran’s Justice Department to ensure the process is quick and fair.
The inclusion of Ebadi on Saberi’s legal team came as civil rights activist the Rev. Jesse Jackson offered to travel to Iran to help seek Saberi’s release.
Iranian officials initially said Saberi, from North Dakota, was arrested in January for buying wine, but on April 9 officials said she was being charged with espionage. Saberi freelanced for National Public Radio, Fox News, the BBC and other news organizations and was writing a book about Iranian culture.