- The Washington Times - Friday, May 15, 2009

VIENNA (AP) — American journalist Roxana Saberi arrived in Austria on Friday to recuperate after four months in an Iranian prison, and paid tribute to those who had supported her.

Saberi, smiling and looking well, was accompanied by her parents. She said she planned to spend several days in the Austrian capital so she could begin to come to terms with her ordeal.

“I came to Vienna because I heard it was a calm and relaxing place,” said Saberi, 32. “I know you have many questions but I need some more time to think about what happened to me over the past couple of days.”

Saberi, who grew up in Fargo, North Dakota, and moved to Iran six years ago, was arrested in late January and was convicted of spying for the United States in a closed-door trial that her Iranian-born father said lasted only 15 minutes.



She was freed on Monday and reunited with her parents, who had come to Iran to seek her release, after an appeals court reduced her sentence to a two-year suspended sentence.

“I heard that certain people, many people, went through a lot of troubles because of me,” said Saberi, who at one point went on a hunger strike.

“Both journalists and non-journalists around the world, I’ve been hearing, supported me very much and it was very moving for me to hear this.”

Her father, Reza Saberi, said they were staying with a friend in Austria.

Saberi made special mention of Austria’s ambassador to Iran and his family, whom she described as “very helpful.”

“I want to thank him again, and his family, and all the other people and nations in the world who helped us during this time,” she said.

Referring to several statements made about her case over the past few days, Saberi stressed she was the only one who knew what really happened.

“Nobody knows about it as well as I do and I will talk about it more in the future, I hope, but I am not prepared at this time,” she said.

Saberi did not specify how long she planned to stay in Austria, saying only: “We’re going to stay here for at least a few days and then go on to the United States.”

She said it was still unclear if she would also travel to France, where a film she co-scripted premiered at the Cannes Film festival on Thursday. The film’s director is Saberi’s partner.

The United States had said the charges against Saberi were baseless and repeatedly demanded her release. The case against her had become an obstacle to President Barack Obama’s attempts at dialogue with the top U.S. adversary in the Middle East.

Saberi held a hunger strike to protest her imprisonment, but she ended it after two weeks when her parents, visiting her in prison, asked her to stop because her health was weakening.

Saberi had worked as a freelance journalist for several organizations, including National Public Radio and the British Broadcasting Corp.

After her arrest, Iranian authorities initially accused her of working without press credentials, but later leveled the far more serious charge of spying. Iran released few details about the allegations that she passed intelligence to the U.S.

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