Iran Releases Journalist Convicted of Spying for U.S.

roxana saberiAN Iranian-American journalist who was sentenced to eight years of jail on charges of spying for Washington was released Monday after an appeal court reduced the sentence, her lawyer said.

Saleh Nikbakht, one of the two lawyers who defended Roxana Saberi in an appeal hearing on Sunday, said the court turned down the original jail term and issued a two-year suspended prison term in its place.

Dikutip dari New York Times.

“The verdict was given to me in person today,” Mr. Nikbakht said. “The appeals court has accepted our defense.”

Ms. Saberi had been held in Evin prison since January. The court ruling meant that she can leave the country immediately if she decides to, Mr. Nikbakht said as he awaited her release with Ms. Saberi’s parents, who live in Fargo, North Dakota, another lawyer for Ms. Saberi, and a crowd of journalists and photographers.

Her father, Reza Saberi, told journalists that Ms. Saberi was “exhausted but in good condition.” “Her release was a big surprise,” he said.

In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was “heartened” by the ruling. The State Department had called the charges against Ms. Saberi baseless and urged her release.

The case had threatened to complicate political maneuvering between Iranian and American leaders over Iran’s nuclear program, a key point of dispute between the two nations. President Obama recently made overtures to Tehran about starting a dialogue over the nuclear program, and Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had responded positively.

The appeals court ruling appeared to reflect the moderating tone of relations between the two nations. In the closed hearing on Sunday, Mr. Nikbakht argued that Ms. Saberi should be released because both Iran’s foreign ministry and its judiciary had recently affirmed that “there was no hostility between Iran and the United States,” he said. The judges accepted the argument.

Mrs. Clinton told reporters that Ms. Saberi was currently with her family in Tehran and will be leaving to the United States “in the coming days,” according to Reuters.

“Obviously we continue to take issue with the charges against her and the verdicts rendered, but we are very heartened that she has been released and wish her and her family all of the very best,” Mrs. Clinton said.

Ms. Saberi, 32, has lived in Iran since 2003 and worked as a freelance journalist for National Public Radio and the BBC. She was arrested in late January for buying a bottle of wine, which is illegal in Iran. But the charges against her escalated to working without a press card and then spying for Washington. Her press card had been revoked in 2006.

Ms. Saberi was found guilty in April in a trial her father said lasted less than an hour. Soon after her sentencing, Mr. Ahmadinejad urged the chief prosecutor to re-examine the case.

The head of the New York based group, the Committee to Protect Journalists, said he was “thrilled” that Roxana Saberi has been released from prison and look forward to welcoming her home.

“But this is also a moment to reflect on the difficult conditions that Iranian journalists endure every day,” said Joel Simon, the group’s executive director. “Several Iranian journalists remain jailed today. We urge they be given the same opportunity for judicial review that was afforded to Roxana Saberi.”

Sharon Otterman contributed reporting from New York.

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