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Journalist freed from Iranian prison thanks her supporters

Associated Press

A joyful Roxana Saberi on Tuesday thanked those who helped win her release after four months in a Tehran prison on espionage charges.

Speaking to reporters in Tehran for the first time since her release Monday, a smiling Saberi said she did not have any specific plans but wanted to spend time with her family. Saberi, who at one point was on hunger strike in prison, looked thin but energetic.

“I’m of course very happy to be free and to be with my parents again, and I want to thank all the people all over the world -- which I’m just finding out about really -- who whether they knew me or not helped me and my family during this period,” she said in brief remarks outside her home in north Tehran.

“I don’t have any specific plans for the moment, I just want to be with my parents and my friends, and to relax,” the 32-year-old said.

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Her father said Saberi was catching up on news stories about her detention as the family prepared to return with her to the United States.

Saberi’s original trial on espionage charges was a swift, single session that her father said lasted only 15 minutes. She didn’t have a chance to speak in that trial, and she was sentenced to eight years in prison -- drawing an outcry from Washington.

But she spoke in an appeals court Sunday, explaining her side to the judges, said her lawyer Saleh Nikbakht. Saberi acknowledged that she copied a confidential Iranian report on the U.S. war in Iraq two years ago but said she didn’t pass it on to the Americans, as prosecutors claimed.

She apologized, saying that it had been a mistake to take the report, Nikbakht said.At the time, Saberi was doing occasional translations for the website of the Expediency Council, which is made up of clerics who mediate between the legislature, presidency and Iran’s clerical leadership over constitutional disputes, the lawyer said.

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Saberi moved to Iran six years ago and throughout her time there was working as a freelance journalist for several organizations, including National Public Radio and the British Broadcasting Corp.

Saberi also told the appeals court that she had engaged in no activities against Iran during a visit to Israel, Nikbakht said.

The court accepted her explanation and reduced her sentence to a suspended two-year term, prompting her release Monday.

Another of Saberi’s lawyers, Abdolsamad Khorramshahi, said a letter from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the court urging it to give Saberi’s case a complete review helped bring about the sentence reduction.


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