Monday, May 11, 2009

Roxana Saberi Released, Can Leave Iran Immediately

UPDATE, 9:30 a.m. Eastern: An American journalist jailed in Iran has been freed and can leave the country immediately, her lawyer said Monday after an appeals court suspended her eight-year prison sentence, according to the Associated Press.

Abdolsamad Khorramshahi says Roxana Saberi is "now out of jail." 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.

Iran's judiciary said the appeals court, which heard her case on Sunday, had reduced her jail term to a suspended two-year sentence, said one of her lawyers, Abdolsamad Khorramshahi.

"She is entitled to leave Iran immediately," said human-rights lawyer Saleh Nikbakht.

An Iranian appeals court earlier today reduced Saberi's eight-year jail sentence to a suspended two-year term.

After the court's ruling, Khorramshahi said: “The appeals court ... has reduced her jail sentence from eight years to two years of suspended sentence ... and she will soon be free.” In a closed hearing yesterday, the court’s judges noted that Iran and the United States “are not at war.”

She was initially given the lengthy prison term during a secret hearing that sparked a diplomatic incident between Washington and Tehran.

"The verdict of the previous court has been quashed," lawyer Saleh Nikbakht said. "Her punishment has been changed to a suspended two-year sentence and she will be out of prison."

The daughter of an Iranian father who lives in Fargo, N.D., and who acquired U.S. citizenship, Saberi moved to Iran six years ago and worked for various international news media including the BBC, FOX News and NPR. Arrested at the end of January, she was initially accused of working illegally as a journalist but was finally tried on a spying charge, one the Iranian authorities often use to silence journalists.

Several Iranian-American citizens, including journalists, have been arrested in Iran in recent years but Saberi is the first one to be tried and given a jail sentence. Her closed-door trial was held on April 13 and the sentence was issued five days later.

Iran was ranked 166th out of 173 countries in the latest Reporters sans frontières press freedom index. A wave of arrests on May 1brought the total number of journalists and bloggers currently held in Iran to 14. Three of them are women.

No comments: