Page last updated at 17:20 GMT, Sunday, 10 May 2009 18:20 UK

Iran court hears reporter appeal

Undated photo released by the family of imprisoned Iranian-American shows journalist Roxana Saberi in Tehran, Iran
Ms Saberi called off a hunger strike earlier this week

A court in Iran has heard an appeal from jailed US-Iranian reporter Roxana Saberi, two days earlier than expected.

Ms Saberi's lawyer said it was not clear when a ruling would be announced, but said he was optimistic of a change to the 32-year-old's sentence.

Her parents said their daughter seemed satisfied at the proceedings and they also hoped for a satisfactory verdict.

Ms Saberi was convicted earlier this year of spying for the US - a charge which she denied.

The case sparked international concern and US President Barack Obama has appealed on her behalf.

Appeal process

In a statement sent to friends and supporters, her parents Reza and Akiko Saberi gave a detailed account of their daughter's appeal, which was not open to the public.

They said the hearing last five hours - far longer than the original trial - and before it began Ms Saberi was allowed a half-hour meeting with a new lawyer.

Both her new and old lawyer were then given plenty of time to state their case.

Ms Saberi's parents described how she was called to the stand at the end of the hearing and stated her innocence.

They said they looked forward to a satisfactory verdict, and thanked all those who had expressed support for their daughter.

Other accounts of the hearing said Ms Saberi - looking a little bewildered - had visibly lost weight from the two-week hunger strike that she only recently ended.

Unlike her original trial, the legal process this time was arranged to appear fair and open, says the BBC's Jon Leyne.

I'm hopeful and optimistic that there will be fundamental changes in the sentence
Abdolsamad Khorramshahi
Ms Saberi's lawyer

Ms Saberi's appeal was heard before a panel of three judges, with representatives of the Iranian Bar Association present.

Lawyer Abdolsamad Khorramshahi said he had submitted 15 pages of documents in support of the appeal for Roxana Saberi .

"I'm hopeful and optimistic that there will be fundamental changes in the sentence," he told journalists.

Before the hearing began, Ms Saberi's father said he believed the case would be handled "more moderately" this time.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has urged the court to give Ms Saberi her full legal rights.

Details of the evidence against her have still not been made public, but some legal officials have said they hope the appeal court will reconsider Ms Saberi's eight-year sentence, which even for the crime of spying is considered very severe.

The appeal was initially scheduled for Tuesday, and it is not known why the hearing was brought forward.

Spy charges

Ms Saberi has been held in Tehran's Evin prison since January.

The journalist originally faced a less serious accusation of buying alcohol, and later of working as a reporter without a valid press card.

Soon after, the spying charge was introduced, and she was tried and sentenced behind closed doors by the Revolutionary Court in Tehran.

Ms Saberi, who holds dual US and Iranian citizenship, has spent six years in Iran studying and writing a book.

She has worked as a freelance journalist for news organisations including the BBC and the US-based National Public Radio.

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