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Sen. Dorgan: Saberi's Release 'A Great Relief'

American journalist Roxana Saberi was released Monday from an Iranian prison, where she had been held since January. A U.S. senator from North Dakota, where Saberi grew up, says the Iranian government has rectified a "terrible miscarriage of justice," and officials said she is now free to leave the country.

Saberi, who has reported for NPR among other news organizations, was arrested in Iran in January for buying alcohol and was later charged with working in Iran without proper press credentials. The charges escalated to spying, and last month she was convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison.

On Monday, an appeals court in Iran reduced and suspended her sentence, and she left the prison with her parents, who met her there.

Her case drew international attention — and condemnation of the secretive proceedings against her. Among those working for her release was Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, where Saberi grew up.

"It's wonderful news, I know a great relief to Roxana, certainly to her family and to so many people around the world who pressed the Iranian government to release this woman from prison," Dorgan tells Renee Montagne. "It was a terrible miscarriage of justice, and the Iranian government has apparently done the right thing."

"I hope she can leave the country and we can welcome her home back here in the U.S. very soon," he said.

Dorgan and his colleagues had written to the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, asking for a review of Saberi's imprisonment and conviction. But he says he isn't sure what led to her release.

"I think there will be a lot of speculation about 'What does this mean?' Does it mean the Iranians have taken a different turn with respect to being concerned about the relationship with the United States? I don't think any of us know that at this point," Dorgan said.

"I was simply appealing to the Iranians to say 'Look, this is a miscarriage of justice and you have to rectify it.' But whatever the motivations might be with respect to the Iranian government, we welcome the release of this young woman," he said.

Dorgan says he had some indication that something was going to happen in the case after the U.S. ambassador and Saberi's father contacted him over the weekend.

"In both cases it seemed to me that ... something would break here," he said. "Obviously, the Iranian government had made the decision, that there was a ... four- or five-hour hearing, as I understand it, on appeal. So whatever the motivation and whatever happened here, it's the right result. She certainly was never a spy, not involved in espionage, so I'm very pleased for the result."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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