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Iran court releases US journalist after suspending sentence

[JURIST] US journalist Roxana Saberi [advocacy site; JURIST news archive] was released from an Iranian prison Monday after an Iranian court of appeals on Sunday reduced her eight-year sentence for espionage to two years and then suspended the sentence. According to statements from Saberi's lawyer, the court determined that the espionage charge was not valid [RFE report] since the US is not an enemy government, but could not ignore that the nature of Saberi's actions had posed a threat to Iranian national security. Saberi had appealed her conviction for espionage [JURIST reports] in late April, and she had been on a hunger strike in protest of her imprisonment.

Saberi was originally arrested [NYT report] in March after buying a bottle of wine, as alcohol consumption is illegal under Iranian law. It was believed that the charges against Saberi would be working without Iranian press credentials, but the Iranian government charged her with espionage [JURIST report], accusing her of passing classified information to US intelligence services. Saberi had been in jail since January and her trial was held in mid-April behind closed doors. Her detention and conviction provoked much international outcry [CPJ letter], and heightened tension in US-Iranian relations [DOS report].

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