Out of Jail: Saberi 'Happy to Be Free'

U.S. journalist Roxana Saberi happy to be free from Iran's notorious jail.

ByABC News
May 12, 2009, 9:05 AM

May 12, 2009— -- Roxana Saberi was all smiles a day after her release from Tehran's Evin prison.

"I am, of course, very happy to be free and to be with my parents, again," she told reporters assembled outside her Tehran apartment today, thanking those who worked toward her release.

"I do not have any specific plans for the moment. I just want to be with my parents and my friends and to relax."

Saberi can leave Iran anytime, free from an 8-year prison sentence for espionage that came down from an Iranian court last month, although she's barred from reporting from Iran for the next five years.

Meanwhile, Saberi's lawyer Abdolsamad Khorramshahi released new details today about her acquittal, saying Roxana "accepted she had made a mistake and got access to documents she should not have. But there was no transfer of any classified information," he told The Associated Press.

Khorramshahi dismissed the notion that her release was politically motivated, although it has been interpreted as a sign of goodwill from Iran after international pressure from Saberi's detention.

Saberi, 32, a dual U.S.-Iranian national, was arrested in January for buying alcohol, and was later accused of reporting without media credentials and charged with espionage.

She was found guilty April 18 in a one-day closed trial criticized for its lack of transparency, and reportedly hospitalized after a two-week hunger strike protesting the conviction. Her appeal was heard Sunday.

Secretary of State Hlilary Clinton Monday applauded Saberi's release.

"She is currently with her family and will be leaving Tehran to return to the United States in the coming days,"Clinton told reporters.

"Obviously, we continue to take issue with the charges against her and the verdicts rendered but we are very heartened that she has been released and wish her and her family all of the very best."

Saberi, who spent her 32nd birthday in prison, had reported from Iran for international news outlets including, National Public Radio, Fox News, the BBC and ABC News. Her press credentials were revoked in 2006 by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, which accredits journalists working in Iran.

During the course of her detention, Saberi's case made international headlines and spurred a global movement for her release. Alexis Grant of freeroxana.net said the Web site had organized a 400-person hunger strike, with people fasting in shifts of one day, to end with news of Saberi's release.

Despite the impression that her release could have been a goodwill gesture on the part of Iran, the case has complicated budding diplomacy between the United States and Iran -- a crucial aspect of President Obama's Middle East foreign policy agenda. Obama called on Iran to free her, an appeal that was repeated by the State Department.

Obama said he was confident that Saberi was not involved in any espionage, and that he was "gravely concerned" for her safety.

President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and other Iranian officials had hinted of her release weeks before the appeal was in heard.

"I am hoping as a sign of goodwill we will see the release. I'm hoping that the accusations against her will prove to be inappropriate," Ahmedinejad told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos in an interview after her conviction. "I am not a judge, and I do not pass judgment over judicial cases," Ahmadinejad said. "In Iran, the judiciary is independent. I have stressed [that], like others, she should be accorded her full rights."

Ahmadinejad, when asked whether he would release her as a humanitarian, goodwill gesture, said, "I think Mr. Obama, as a sign of change and also to encourage friendship, should allow laws to be processed fairly and allow the judiciary to carry out its duties. I am sure she is not being mistreated."

Her parents, who live in North Dakota, have been in Tehran since Saberi's arrest to press for her release.