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Iran Tells Rights Groups Not To Interfere In Saberi Case


Members of Reporters Without Borders protest in front of Iranian carrier Iran Air to denounce Roxana Saberi's detention.

Members of Reporters Without Borders protest in front of Iranian carrier Iran Air to denounce Roxana Saberi's detention.

TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Iran has told international rights groups to stop interfering in the country's judicial matters by protesting against the imprisonment of U.S.-Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi for spying.

Four U.S. members of Reporters Without Borders started a hunger strike on May 3 outside the UN headquarters in New York to press for the release of Saberi, whose father says she has been on hunger strike since April 21.

Saberi, kept in Tehran's notorious Evin prison, was sentenced to eight years in prison last month on charges of spying for the United States, Iran's arch-foe. The journalist's lawyer has appealed against the verdict.

"Our judiciary is independent and...any kind of imposition or interference in the legal process is against international regulations," Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi told a weekly news conference.

The Iranian judiciary denies Saberi is on hunger strike and says she is in good health. Her father Reza Saberi says she is in a "frail and weak" condition.

A citizen of both the United States and Iran, the freelance journalist was arrested in late January for working in Iran after her press credentials had expired in 2006.

Washington rejects espionage charges as baseless against Saberi, who has reported for the BBC and the U.S. National Public Radio.

The United States has expressed deep concern for Saberi's safety, calling for her release.

Tehran, which does not recognize dual nationality, says Washington should respect the independence of Iran's judiciary.

"Roxana's case is not a complicated issue. She is an Iranian lady whose case is under review by the appeal court," said Qashqavi. "We have to wait for the appeal court's decision."

Hard-line President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has called on the judiciary to ensure Saberi enjoys full legal rights to defend herself. The judiciary chief has said the appeal must be dealt with in a "quick and fair" way.

Saberi's case could complicate Washington's efforts towards reconciliation with Iran after three decades of mutual mistrust.
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