Iran - Roxana Saberi finally freed



    MONTREAL, May 11 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders hails today's
release of Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi. Her fiancé, filmmaker
Bahman Ghobadi, her parents and her lawyers were there to greet her as she
emerged from Tehran's Evin prison at 5:45 p.m. (1415 GMT).
    "This is excellent news," the press freedom organisation said. "The
appeal court's decision to free her can be used as a legal precedent for other
journalists currently detained in Iran. The fact nonetheless remains that,
despite her innocence, she is still regarded as guilty by the Iranian
authorities."
    After hearing her appeal in a closed-door session yesterday, a Tehran
court decided to reduce her eight-year jail term to a suspended two-year
sentence.
    One of her lawyers, Saleh Nikbakhat, told Reporters Without Borders that
Saberi was originally convicted under article 508 of the criminal code of
"collaborating with a state at war with the Islamic Republic of Iran" but
during yesterday's hearing, the judges agreed to change the charge on the
grounds that the United States and Iran "were not at war."
    She now stands convicted of "collecting and transmitting classified
information" under article 505 of the criminal code. As well as the two-year
suspended jail term, the appeal court banned her from working as a journalist
in Iran for five years.
    "The sentence is still unjust, as is the ban on her working as a
journalist in Iran," Reporters Without Borders said.
    The daughter of an Iranian father who lives in the United States and has
US citizenship, Saberi moved to Iran six years ago and worked for various
international news media including the BBC, Fox News and the US public radio
network NPR. Arrested at the end of January, she was initially accused of
working illegally as a journalist but was finally tried on a charge of spying
for the United States, a charge 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 trial was held on 13 April and the sentence was
issued five days later.
    Iran was ranked 166th out of 173 countries in the latest Reporters
Without Borders press freedom index. A wave of arrests on 1 May brought the
total number of journalists and bloggers currently held in Iran to 14. Two of
them are women.




For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, Executive Director,
Reporters Without Borders Canada, (514) 521-4111, rsfcanada@rsf.org

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