US-Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi was released from jail in Iran on Monday following international and domestic protests at her detention. A court heard an appeal against her conviction on Sunday and commuted her eight-year sentence to a suspended two-year term on the charge of “collecting classified information”.
The court imposed a five-year ban on her working as a journalist in Iran. Amnesty International, which had campaigned for her release, welcomed the news.
“We are delighted that justice has been served by the appeal process and that Roxana Saberi has been released from prison in Tehran,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa region, on Monday. “She should, however, never have been imprisoned in the first place.
“Although Ms Saberi’s release is welcome, it should be unconditional. In particular she should be free to travel – a privilege not afforded to Narges Mohammadi, an aide to Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi, and Soraya Azizpanah, the editor of Rasan magazine, who were banned from attending a conference in Guatemala at the weekend.”
Roxana Saberi was reported to have been convicted of “collaborating with a hostile state” by Tehran’s Revolutionary Court, behind closed doors, in April. She was originally sentenced to eight years in prison. One of her lawyers, Saleh Nikbakht, told AFP that the appeal court had overturned this conviction on the grounds that the United States and Iran could not be defined as hostile towards each other.
“We are also calling on the Iranian authorities to release all other prisoners of conscience in Iran, including the Alaei brothers, who are imprisoned on similar charges,” added Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui. “We believe they are held solely in relation to their work with international and specifically US institutions in the field of HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment.”
The Alaei brothers – both doctors specializing in the prevention and management of HIV and AIDS – were arrested in June 2008. Following an unfair trial, they were sentenced to six and three years’ imprisonment respectively, for “cooperating with an enemy government”, in January 2009.
Government officials said they had been arrested in connection with a plot aimed at a “soft overthrow” of the Islamic Republic. Their sentences were upheld on appeal in March 2009. Two others were also imprisoned in the same case.
Over 3,100 doctors, nurses and public health workers from more than 85 countries have signed an online petition demanding their release.