« Continue Browsing

e-mail article Print     e-mail article E-mail

Forum and wire reports, Published May 15 2009

Roxana Saberi arrives in Austria, ND's Hoeven planning welcome home celebration

UPDATED 10:40 a.m.

VIENNA (AP) - Roxana Saberi, the American journalist freed after about four months in an Iranian prison on spying charges left the country, flying to the Austrian capital with her parents and a friend this morning.

After landing at the airport, Saberi said she planned to spend a few days in Vienna to recover from her ordeal.

"I came to Vienna because I heard it was a calm and relaxing place," Saberi said. "I know you have many questions but I need some more time to think about what happened to me over the past couple of days."

North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven issued a statement today about a welcome home party on her behalf.

Hoeven said he spoke with Saberi about a celebration upon her return to Fargo. The governor plans to visit with her next week to begin planning an event.

“I spoke with Roxana this morning and was pleased to hear she and her family are doing well," Hoeven said in his statement. "I expressed that all North Dakotans are happy about her release, and we look forward to welcoming her home. Roxana extended thanks to everyone in North Dakota for all they have done to support her and her family during this time.”

Her father, Reza Saberi, said they were staying with a friend in Austria.

Saberi, poised and smiling, thanked all those who supported her during her ordeal - including Austria's ambassador to Iran and his family.

"Both journalists and non-journalists around the world, I've been hearing, supported me very much and it was very moving for me to hear this," Saberi said.

Saberi, referring to several statements made about her case over the past few days, stressed she was the only one who knew what really happened.

"Nobody knows about it as well as I do and I will talk about it more in the future, I hope, but I am not prepared at this time," she said.

The 32-year-old journalist, who grew up in Fargo, and moved to Iran six years ago, was arrested in late January and was convicted of spying for the United States in a brief, closed-door trial that her Iranian-born father said lasted only 15 minutes.

She was freed on Monday and reunited with her parents, who had come to Iran to seek her release, after an appeals court reduced her sentence to a two-year suspended sentence.

The United States had said the charges against Saberi were baseless and repeatedly demanded her release. The case against her had become an obstacle to President Barack Obama's attempts at dialogue with the top U.S. adversary in the Middle East.

At one point, Saberi held a hunger strike to protest her imprisonment, but she ended it after two weeks when her parents, visiting her in prison, asked her to stop because her health was weakening.

Saberi had worked as a freelance journalist for several organizations, including National Public Radio and the British Broadcasting Corp.

After her arrest, Iranian authorities initially accused her of working without press credentials, but later leveled the far more serious charge of spying. Iran released few details about the allegations that she passed intelligence to the U.S.

Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.