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Published May 30 2009

Homecoming set for Saberi

In late March, after an agonizing three months, Roxana Saberi’s parents headed for Iran with hopes to bring their daughter home.

Today, they’ll do just that.

The north Fargo residents are scheduled to arrive at 2 p.m. today at Hector International Airport with their daughter – bringing her home after her four-month imprisonment in Tehran.

“He, like everyone else, is just delighted to have her home,” said Don Canton, a spokesman for North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven, who will be at Saberi’s homecoming celebration.

U.S. Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., Fargo Deputy Mayor Tim Mahoney, Concordia College President Pam Jolicoeur and Saberi’s former Concordia College journalism professor Catherine McMullen also will welcome Saberi home.

The now internationally known journalist will arrive with her parents and a friend before giving a statement and possibly answering media questions, Canton said.

“Roxana’s asked that we kind of keep it brief,” he said. “She’s anxious to get home.”

The 32-year-old was arrested four months ago for spying for the U.S. Charges were later reduced to a two-year suspended term, allowing her to leave the country.

The Fargo North High School and Concordia College graduate has dual citizenship in the U.S. and Iran and had been working in Tehran for six years as a freelance journalist.

The last time Saberi stepped foot in Fargo was almost a year ago, welcoming students to Concordia College.

She was scheduled to return to her alma mater three weeks ago as the commencement speaker, but was still in prison.

“She helped us open the academic year,” Jolicoeur said, adding Saberi’s story has served as an inspiration to Concordia students and staff. “She’s been very present for us all year long.”

Concordia students and staff sold yellow pins in her honor and invited Saberi’s former National Public Radio mentor, Margo Melnicove, to fill in as commencement speaker.

McMullen will present Saberi with one of the “Free Roxana” yellow pins today when she welcomes her former student back.

“We love you,” she said she’ll tell Saberi. “Thank you for all you taught us – heart, courage, what journalists do, grace under pressure and generally being just a class act.”

Jolicoeur said she’d like to plan a campus celebration in honor of Saberi this fall when students return – with Saberi’s permission.

As for the chance Saberi will be again invited as their commencement speaker, Jolicoeur said: “You can count on that as a significant chance.”

If you go

Readers can reach Forum reporterKelly Smith at (701) 241-5515