Iran Releases American Vatican Radio Reporter Roxana Saberi

Originally sentenced to eight years for espionage

TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)– American Iranian free-lance journalist Roxana Saberi who reported for Vatican Radio and other international media has been freed from a Tehran prison, amid international pressure, her attorney confirmed Monday, May 11.

Abdolsamad Khorramshahi told reporters that a prison official told him Saberi, originally sentenced to eight years for espionage, left the prison at an entrance other than the main gate, where journalists and others waited. Vatican Radio editors told BosNewsLife they had been very concerned about their situation.

The 32-year-old dual American-Iranian national had been in detention for nearly three months. On April 18, Iran’s Revolutionary Court charged her with spying for the United States and sentenced her to eight years in prison.

However Iran’s judiciary said the appeals court, which heard her case on Sunday, had reduced her jail term to a suspended two-year sentence, allowing her to leave the country. A three-judge panel reversed the verdict against Saberi “and she is to be freed,” Iran’s state-run new agency IRNA quoted an official as saying.


SIGNING PAPERWORK

Her father Reza Saberi said he had signed paperwork for her release and that he expected to be re-united with her in Tehran soon. He had been waiting outside of Tehran’s Evin prison for his daughter.

“So, practically, she is free as of today,” her father said. The judges reportedly agreed with Saberi’s lawyers’ argument that Iran and the United States are not at war, so Saberi can not be punished for aiding agents of a nation at war with Iran.

Her release came after Saberi engaged in a two-week hunger strike to protest her detention, ending it last Monday after her parents pleaded with her to resume eating.

The Iranian-American journalist was detained in January for buying a bottle of wine, then Iranian officials said she was working as a journalist without proper credentials. Saberi has lived in Iran since 2003 and reported for Vatican Radio, as well as National Public Radio, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and others. Her press credentials were revoked in 2006, but she continued reporting.


However several other journalists, dissidents and Christians remain detained in Iran, rights groups say.


– Iran Releases American Vatican Radio Reporter Roxana Saberi, © BosNewsLife, May 11, 2009 — Posted at Religion News Blog by permission

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This post was last updated: Monday, May 11, 2009 at 6:28 PM, Central European Time (CET)