Monday, May 11, 2009

Roxana Saberi to be freed today!!!

from Yahoo News
May 11, 2009
By Fredrik Dahl and Hashem Kalantari

TEHRAN (Reuters) – U.S.-born journalist Roxana Saberi is to be freed soon after an Iranian appeals court cut her eight-year jail sentence for spying to a suspended two-year term.
A judiciary source said Saberi, whose jailing on April 18 on charges of spying for the United States became a new source of tension between Tehran and Washington, had already been released and would be allowed to leave Iran.

But her father Reza said she had not yet walked free after more than three months in detention, saying he was waiting in front of Evin prison in northern Tehran.

"She will be freed today, hopefully. The papers are ready ... it is just a matter of time, a couple of hours," he told Reuters by telephone. "We are very happy."

Reza Saberi said he and his Japanese wife Akiko would "bring our daughter back home," apparently referring to the United States, where he moved in the early 1970s. "We will go back as soon as possible," he said.

The development came a day after an appeals court held a hearing on the case of Saberi, a 32-year-old journalist who has worked for the BBC and U.S. National Public Radio.

"The appeals court ... has reduced her jail sentence from eight years to two years of suspended sentence ... and she will soon be free," her defense lawyer Abdolsamad Khorramshahi said.

"In consideration of this ruling, naturally she will be freed," judiciary spokesman Alireza Jamshidi told the official IRNA news agency, without giving a date.

The lawyer said Saberi would be banned from doing any reporting work in Iran for five years.

"There are no obstacles for her leaving the country and she can leave Iran freely," said her other lawyer, Saleh Nikbakht.

Saberi looked thin and tired at Sunday's court session. Last week, her father said she had ended a two-week hunger strike and was "very weak." The judiciary denied she had refused food and said she was in good health.


Saberi, a citizen of both the United States and Iran, was arrested in late January for working in the Islamic Republic after her press credentials had expired. She was later charged with espionage, a charge that can carry the death sentence.

Her case created a new problem for Tehran and Washington at a time when the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama is seeking to reach out to the Islamic state after three decades of mutual mistrust.

The United States said the espionage charges against Saberi, a former Miss Dakota who moved to Iran six years ago, were baseless and demanded her immediate release.

Tehran, which does not recognize dual nationality, said Washington should respect the independence of Iran's judiciary.

The two countries are locked in a dispute over nuclear work that the West fears is aimed at making weapons, an allegation that Iran denies.

Obama has offered a new beginning of engagement with Tehran if it "unclenches his fist." Iran says the United States must show real change in police toward it.

Paris-based watchdog Reporters Without Borders last month said Saberi's conviction was a warning to foreign journalists working in Iran ahead of its presidential election in June.

It said seven journalists were imprisoned in Iran, which it said was ranked 166th out of 173 countries in its latest press freedom index.

Iran denies Western allegations it is seeking to stifle dissenting voices. The government says it welcomes constructive criticism and upholds the principle of free speech.

(Additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi and Hossein Jaseb; Editing by Peter Millership)
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