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Iran frees US-born reporter Roxana Saberi

Saberi gets suspended two-year sentence

Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi was freed from Tehran’s Evin jail after an appeals court reduced her eight-year jail sentence for espionage to a two-year suspended term, her lawyer and officials said on Monday.

"The verdict of the previous court has been quashed," Saleh Nikbakht said. "Her punishment has been changed to a suspended two-year sentence.”

But her father Reza said she had not yet walked free after more than three months in detention, saying he was waiting in front of Evin prison in northern Tehran.

"She will be freed today, hopefully. The papers are ready ... it is just a matter of time, a couple of hours," he told Reuters by telephone. "We are very happy."

Reza Saberi said he and his Japanese wife Akiko would "bring our daughter back home", apparently referring to the United States, where he moved in the early 1970s. "We will go back as soon as possible," he said.

The ruling comes just a day after a Tehran court heard a closed-door appeal by Saberi, who was initially detained in January reportedly for buying alcohol, an illegal act in the Islamic republic.

She will be freed today, hopefully. The papers are ready ... it is just a matter of time, a couple of hours

Reza Saberi

The case triggered deep concern in Washington, which had dismissed the spying charges against the 32-year-old Saberi as baseless.

Saberi, a former U.S. beauty queen, went on a hunger strike on April 21 in protest of her sentence, drinking only water or sugared water, but she ended it after two weeks after she was briefly hospitalized in the prison clinic.

The sentence against Saberi was the harshest ever meted out to a dual national on security charges in Iran, and was issued just weeks after U.S. President Barack Obama proposed better ties with Tehran.

Iran, which does not recognize dual nationality, has said Saberi had continued working "illegally" after her press card was revoked in 2006.

Saberi has reported for U.S. National Public Radio, the BBC and Fox News, and has lived in Iran for the past six years.