NU celebrates journalist's release from jail

Saberi to return to US in few days
May 11, 2009 8:51:11 PM PDT
An American journalist convicted of being a spy in Iran is now free to leave the country.Roxana Saberi, who graduated from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., has been reunited with her family. She was released from prison on Monday after an appeals court suspended her sentence.

She will return to the U.S. in the next few days, according to her family, who live in Fargo, ND.

Saberi spent four months in an Iranian jail. Many people think the pressure of international public opinion led to her release, but some people believe the ever delicate political relationship between the United States and Iran factored in.

"She cared passionately about being a voice for people who didn't have a voice and was always interested in international journalism from the beginning," said Lois Shuford, Saberi's friend.

Roxana is fine and there is no problem and we will be getting ready to leave the country soon," said Reza Saberi, Saberi's father.

Saberi was arrested in January for allegedly buying a bottle of wine. She was then accused of espionage. While she did not have a permit to work as a journalist, the 32-year old dual American Iranian national had been in the country for six years -- freelancing for several news organizations. Her father said she was there to write a book about Iranian culture. After a one-day trial, she was sentenced to 8 years in prison, which drew heavy criticism.

"We continue to take issue with the charges absent her and the verdicts rendered, but we are very hearted that she has been released," said US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Saberi ended a two week hunger strike before an appeals judge reduced her sentence to a 2-year suspended sentence. Students at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism are thrilled.

"The most important thing to learn from Roxana is just to be courageous," said Naomi Pescovitz, Medill student.

While some people see Saberi's release as a victory for the world's free press, journalism teacher Jack Doppelt said with journalists being detained around the world, his student's release may be more about politics than journalism.

"I think the lesson is if there are injustices going on anywhere and you can get enough people to focus on them and vocalize, including in North Korea, that things may happen. And they may not," said Jack Doppelt, Medill journalism professor.

Reverend Jesse Jackson and several human rights and media rights groups worked to help secure the journalist's freedom.

As a condition of her release, the North Dakota native is barred from working as a journalist in Iran.


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