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Freed US-Iranian journalist Saberi leaves country

Latest update : 2009-11-16

US-Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi, freed from an Iranian jail after her eight-year prison sentence for spying was reduced to a suspended two-year term, has reportedly left Iran with her parents to an unknown destination.

AFP - US-born reporter Roxana Saberi, who was freed from an Iranian jail this week, left the Islamic republic on Friday for an unknown destination.
   
Minutes before the plane carrying Roxana took off, Payam Mohebi, a family friend of Roxana told AFP that she and her parents were travelling with him on board a flight from Tehran's Imam Khomeini airport.
   
"I am switching off my mobile phone now," Mohebi said as the plane prepared to take off.
   
He did not say where exactly they were heading from Iran, but soon after her release her father, Reza Saberi, said the family was preparing to take Roxana back to the United States.
   
There are no direct flights between Iran and the United States.
   
Mohebi said Roxana was "doing well and very happy".
   
"At the moment, she has no clear plan yet ... whether to come back to the country (Iran) or not," he said.
   
Saberi was released on Monday after her original eight-year jail term, delivered on charges of spying for the United States, was reduced to a suspended two-year term by an appeal court.
   
The Iranian judiciary has said her two-year sentence would be suspended for five years.
   
Her lawyer Saleh Nikbakht told AFP on Wednesday that Saberi, 32, faced the spy charges after she obtained a classified report prepared by a research centre of the Iranian presidency office on the US war on Iraq.
   
Saberi's other lawyer, Abdolsamad Khoramshahi, said the journalist received a suspended two-year jail term from the appeal court -- the stipulated punishment for such a crime.
   
Iran's intelligence minister said on Wednesday that Saberi was guilty.
   
"The verdict shows that she has not been acquitted, she was put on trial and it was established that she had committed an offence," Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie was quoted as saying by the state broadcaster.
   
Saberi walked free from Tehran's Evin prison on Monday where she was held following her arrest in January, reportedly first on charges of buying alcohol, which is illegal in the Islamic republic.
   
However, she was later accused of "cooperating with a hostile state," a charge which carries a prison term of one to 10 years under article 508 of the Iranian penal code.
   
The charge was later replaced and Saberi was accused of "gathering classified information with an intention of harming national security" under article 505 of the code.
   
Her lawyers had defended her by saying that she could not be charged for cooperating with a hostile state, in this case the United States, as Washington and Tehran could not be defined as being hostile towards each other.
   
Saberi's original eight-year jail term had caused deep concern in Washington and among human rights groups.
   
The sentence was the harshest ever meted out to a dual national on security charges in Iran, and came just weeks after US President Barack Obama proposed dialogue with Tehran after three decades of severed ties.
   
Saberi in brief comments to reporters on Tuesday thanked those who had helped to secure her release.
   
She said he had no plans at the moment and just wanted to "relax" with her family.
   
Reza Saberi, her father, told reporters that the family was preparing to take her back to the United States.
   
He also said Roxana was "not tortured" during her stay in prison, but added that she had still not fully spoken of her experiences there.
   
Saberi, who is also of Japanese descent, has been staying in Iran for six years, and had reported for US-based National Public Radio (NPR), the BBC and other foreign media groups.

Date created : 2009-05-15

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