May 11, 2009
The Asian American Journalists Association is extremely relieved that journalist Roxana Saberi has been released from prison in Iran and will soon be returning home to the United States and her family and friends. We are grateful to all who supported her and worked tirelessly worldwide to raise awareness about her situation.
According to the Associated Press, President Barack Obama praised Saberi’s release but continues to stress that she was wrongly accused.
Saberi, 32, a dual citizen of Iran and the U.S., had been held for four months. She was convicted of espionage after a short, one-day trial and sentenced to eight years in prison. Her appeal, which was heard May 10 and lasted five hours, resulted in a suspended two year sentence.
The news of her release is tempered, however, by the knowledge that two other Asian American journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, remain in custody in North Korea. As was the case with Saberi, circumstances surrounding their arrest and subsequent indictment are questionable, and their situation continues to underscore the need for journalists to be allowed to do their jobs without fear of reprisal.
Ling and Lee have been in custody since March 17. The Pyongyang government said on April 24 it would put the pair on trial for “hostile acts,” but did not say when.
North Korean guards arrested the two women at the China-North Korea border. A diplomat representing the Swedish government, which has relations with North Korea, was allowed to visit Ling and Lee March 30 acting on behalf of the United States, but reportedly has not been granted subsequent visits.