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Iran to Investigate Case of Jailed U.S. Journalist

April 20, 2009 at 6:30 PM EDT

JIM LEHRER: Next, the story of the journalist imprisoned in Tehran, and to Margaret Warner.

MARGARET WARNER: On Sunday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmandinejad sent a letter to the prosecutor asking the court to let Saberi defend herself fully on appeal. Iran’s secretive judiciary is under no obligation to comply.

Today, her father expressed hope that prosecutors will listen to Ahmadinejad.

REZA SABERI, father, Roxana Saberi: I hope they will heed that letter, and they will pay close attention to all the evidence in the file, and judge justly and fairly, and also they should be compassionate in their judgment and not very harsh.

MARGARET WARNER: Later today, the chief of the judiciary ordered a full investigation into Saberi’s case.

Saberi was detained in January originally for buying a bottle of wine, which is against Iranian law. Subsequently, she was accused of working without proper press credentials and then charged with spying for the United States.

A dual American-Iranian citizen raised in Fargo, North Dakota, Saberi moved to Iran six years ago as a journalist. She’s contributed to National Public Radio and the BBC and did one report for the NewsHour in 2006.

President Obama, when asked about her case at a news conference yesterday, refuted the spying charge.

U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Obviously, I am gravely concerned with her safety and well-being. She is an American citizen, and I have complete confidence that she was not engaging in any sort of espionage.

MARGARET WARNER: And today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton echoed that assertion and told reporters that Saberi should be released.

HILLARY CLINTON, secretary of State: She should be freed immediately, that the charges against her are baseless, and that she has been subjected to a process that has been nontransparent, unpredictable, arbitrary.

MARGARET WARNER: Saberi’s one-hour-long trial last Monday was held behind closed doors. Her father says she was not allowed to fully defend herself.