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As Clinton calls on Iran to release US journalist, commentators decry 'farce'

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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Monday for Iran to release journalist Roxana Saberi immediately, telling reporters at the State Department that the espionage charges levied against her were "baseless":

She has been subjected to a process that has been non-transparent, unpredictable [and] arbitrary.... We hope that actions will be taken as soon as possible by the authorities in Iran, including the judiciary, to bring about the speedy release of Miss Saberi and her return home.

Earlier Monday, Iran’s Judiciary Chief Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi had called for a quick consideration of Saberi's appeal, after she was convicted Saturday and sentenced to eight years in jail.

His demand came a day after US President Barack Obama said he was “deeply disappointed” by the sentence and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad intervened, asking the judiciary to ensure the Iranian-American’s full legal rights – as The Christian Science Monitor reported Sunday:

Analysts say the timing of Saberi's arrest in late January and the severity of her sentence – ordered after a closed-door trial that began last Monday – is no coincidence, and may be an effort by right-wing factions in Iran to complicate or disrupt chances of talks between the US and Iran. Or, it may be to improve Iran's negotiating position in any future talks.

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