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Ensure reporters’ rights, says Ahmadinejad

Atul Aneja

DUBAI: Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has directed judicial authorities to ensure that a detained American-Iranian journalist accused of spying, is allowed to fully exercise her legal right to defend herself.

The state run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) has reported that Mr. Ahmadinejad issued a letter on Sunday to Tehran’s prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi, regarding the cases of detained reporters Roxana Saberi and Hossein Derakhshan.

The presidential office urged the prosecutor to handle the cases with precision and to ensure that the accused can defend themselves freely and legally, IRNA said.

Mr. Ahamdinejad’s directive came after a revolutionary court on Saturday sentenced Ms. Saberi to eight years imprisonment, amid strong objections to the ruling by western governments.

U.S. President Barack Obama, attending a regional summit in Port of Spain said he was deeply disappointed by the sentence. Analysts say the ruling, if implemented, could affect the emerging thaw in Iran-U.S. relations.

The letter coincided with Mr. Ahmadinejad’s departure for Geneva to attend a conference on racism. Israel has raised strong objections to the proposed meeting, later on Sunday, between Mr. Ahmadinejad and Swiss Prime Minister Hans-Rudolf Merz.

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