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Freed American Journalist To Leave Iran


The American journalist Roxana Saberi spoke today to reporters in Tehran. It was her first full day of freedom after more than three months in an Iranian prison.

Mr. REZA SABERI (Reporter): And, of course, I'm happy to be free and to be with my parents again. And I want to thank all the people all over world who, whether they knew me or not, helped me and my family during this period.

INSKEEP: The freelance American reporter had been convicted of spying for the U.S., a charge that can carry a death sentence. Yesterday, an appeals court reduced her eight-year jail term to two years, suspended, which meant she would be allowed to go free.

Mr. REZA SABERI: We were very excited, and it came unexpectedly. We were thinking that we will hear something, but not that fast. So, it was very good news.

INSKEEP: That was Reza Saberi. NPR reached Roxana Saberi's father at his daughter's apartment in Tehran early this morning. He spoke about Roxana's time in prison.

Mr. SABERI: She had a lot of psychological pressures. There was no physical abuse or anything, but just to be there, for her to be confined in one room and not to be able to do anything of the activities that she used to do, it was hard for her.

INSKEEP: Roxana Saberi's ordeal began on January 31st, when she was arrested.


Roxana's family became worried when they didn't hear from her. In early February, she called. She said she'd been arrested after buying a bottle of wine - illegal in Iran - and she asked her parents not to reveal her situation publicly. It wasn't until March that she got a lawyer shortly after the world learned of her arrest.

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Unidentified Woman: Authorities in Iran have arrested and detained an American freelance reporter. Roxana Saberi has reported for NPR, the BBC and other news…

MONTAGNE: On March 2nd, the Iranian government charged Saberi with illegal news gathering since her press credentials had been revoked.

INSKEEP: Shortly after that, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for Saberi's release.

Secretary HILLARY CLINTON (Department of State): We believe there is only one outcome to this matter, and that is for her to be released as soon as possible, to return home to her family in North Dakota.

INSKEEP: That was the secretary of state's call, but on April 8th, Saberi was charged with espionage.

MONTAGNE: A few days later, she appeared in Iran's Revolutionary Court for a trial that lasted less than an hour. It was held behind closed doors. She was sentenced to eight years in prison. Even Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke publicly, asking for her case to be reviewed and for Saberi to be allowed to defend herself.

INSKEEP: This morning, her father spoke about his daughter's immediate future.

Mr. SABERI: Roxana will be in our house in North Dakota - Fargo, North Dakota. And for a while, she will recover there, and then she will decide what to do.

MONTAGNE: In the meantime, Reza Saberi says the family is celebrating quietly.

Mr. SABERI: Well, just ourselves and one of our neighbors came to check on us and to talk to us. Other than that, no, we're with just a few friends, but right now, we're just with our daughter.

INSKEEP: When Roxana Saberi and her family return to North Dakota, they will find items left by a former college instructor, including an American flag and a sign that reads: Free at Last.

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INSKEEP: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.