U.S. journalist Roxana Saberi walked free from a Tehran prison Monday,
one day after her sentence on spy charges was cut to a suspended
The White House spokesman said President Barack Obama is relieved by
Iran's "humanitarian gesture," but the U.S. continues to stress that
she was wrongly accused.
Saberi left Evin prison Monday, where she had been held since January.
Her lawyers had appealed her original eight-year sentence (on Sunday).
Her father, Reza Saberi, waiting for her outside the prison, said he
hopes to return to the United States with his daughter in the coming
Her lawyer, Saleh Nikbakht, told VOA (PNN) he successfully
argued Sunday that since Iran says it is not hostile to any country,
Saberi's conviction on charges of cooperating with a hostile government
should be void.
The lawyer added that the two-year suspended sentence stemmed from
charges Saberi had secret documents at her Tehran home. He said she has
lost her right to work in Iran as a journalist, but she is free to
leave the country.
The 32-year-old freelance journalist, who has lived and worked in Iran
for the past six years, was found guilty last month on charges of
espionage. Her family and the U.S. government said the charges against
her were baseless and demanded her release.
The journalist's case generated support from human and media rights
groups internationally and caused new tensions between Washington and
Tehran just as the two began a cautious rapprochement.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday she was very
heartened by Saberi's release, but said Washington continues to take
issue over both the verdict and the sentence.
State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said the U.S. continued to be
involved in the case right up to her release. He said the efforts were
made through Swiss colleagues who represent American interests in
Tehran, in the absence of formal U.S.-Iranian diplomatic relations.
Kelly declined to speculate on any possible political motivations Iran
may have had in releasing Saberi. He added that Washington continues to
press for the safe return of other Americans in Iran, whose status is
Human rights group Amnesty International welcomed the news of her
release, but said she should never have been in prison in the first
Saberi's father said the journalist ended a hunger strike last Monday
at Evin prison after refusing to eat for nearly two weeks. Witnesses to
Sunday's closed-door proceedings say Saberi appeared tired and thin
when she arrived at the courthouse.
Iran's judiciary denied Saberi staged a hunger protest. Iranian
officials also have criticized international involvement in the case,
saying the judiciary is independent and outside interference
contradicts international norms.
Authorities had initially said she was detained for working in Iran
after her work permit had expired. She was later charged with
espionage, which can carry the death penalty.