International PEN welcomes the May 11, 2009 release of Iranian-American journalist and writer Roxana Saberi, who had been held since January 2009. She had been sentenced to eight years in prison on charges of “espionage.”

Background Information

According to press reports, Roxana Saberi, aged 31, was released today from Tehran’s Evin prison a few hours after the appeal hearing in which the charge of espionage was dropped to the lesser charge of “having access to classified information” and the eight-year prison sentence reduced to a two-year suspended sentence. Her father met her as she left prison, and the family is understood to be leaving Iran soon. Saberi has also been banned from working as a journalist in Iran for five years.   

Roxana Saberi was arrested in late January 2009 for buying alcohol, which is prohibited in Iran. In early March it was reported that her detention was linked to her allegedly "illegal" and "unauthorized" activities as a journalist in Iran since 2006, when her press credentials were revoked. However, on April 18, 2009, Saberi was sentenced behind closed doors by the Revolutionary Court in Tehran to eight years in prison for “espionage” at a one-hour trial that did not conform to international standards of fairness. According to Roxana Saberi’s father, during her pre-trial detention, she had made confessions under pressure that were later used against her in court. In contrast, the appeal hearing was reportedly conducted in a fair and open manner, although details of the charges against her have not been made public.

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Thank you to all who took action on this case.