TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — A lawyer for a U.S. journalist jailed in Iran says she has been freed from prison after an appeals court suspended her eight-year jail sentence. Roxana Saberi, a 32-year-old dual Iranian-American citizen, was convicted last month of spying for the U.S. and sentenced to eight years in prison. An appeals court reduced her jail term on Monday to a two-year suspended sentence.
Nicole: It remains to be seen what is motivating the Iranian government to release Saberi. Trita Parsi has been covering Saberi's case at Huffington Post and reports that Saberi's arrest and sentencing have always been politically motivated:
According to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI), the Iranian authorities didn't even disclose the laws she allegedly violated, nor did they announce under what article of the law she was indicted.
Saberi, an Iranian-American journalist who has been living in Iran since 2003, was first arrested in January. She was accused of buying wine. The allegation was later changed to engaging in illegal activities by continuing to report after her press credentials were revoked in 2006. Then, during her closed-door trail on April 13, 2009, the authorities changed the charge once again. Now she was accused of spying for the US government.[..]
Most analysts agree that she has become a pawn in the political games between the US and Iran, though the explanations for Tehran's actions differ.
One theory reads that both Saberi and Esha Momeni, another Iranian American who was arrested in 2008, will be used as leverage with the US in a future negotiation, possibly to exchange for two Iranian nationals taken by US forces in a 2007 raid of the Iranian consulate in Irbil, Iraq. Tehran maintains that the two Iranians are diplomats. The Bush administration said that they were Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps agents. (US forces arrested five Iranians - three of them have been released, but two of them remain in US custody.) Some have speculated that the case is an effort by hardliners in the Iranian Judiciary who seek to undermine US-Iran negotiations. This would fit an old pattern in which Iranian hardliners often used their influence in the Judiciary or the Intelligence ministry to create roadblocks for any US-Iran diplomacy.
Interestingly, WaPo subscribes to the theory that they may be seeking the release of their diplomats. But Joe Klein at Time (of whom foreign policy experts I trust have said has been reading tea leaves of diplomacy well of late) thinks it's an attempt by the really hardcore mullahs to soften up, anticipating their upcoming election and hoping to perhaps keep Ahmadinejad in power.
There is a real chance that the internal Iranian faction that favors rejoining the world will succeed and negotiations will begin.
At this point, there's just no way to know what kind of discussions are/were going on, and it is just wonderful to know that she has been freed, though I am reminded that we still have another journalist/blogger in an Iranian jail, charged with spying, not to mention Americans Laura Ling and Euna Lee detained in North Korea.