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IRAN: Roxana Saberi speaks, aftershocks continue

May 12, 2009 |  1:58 pm

Thin and pale, but nonetheless overjoyed, Roxana Saberi today made her first public appearance since her release from prison Monday after more than three months in detention. Saberi's apparently free to leave Iran for the U.S. But the after-effects of the Iranian American journalist's arrest and stunning release from prison will continue.


Saberi appeared before reporters in front of her north Tehran apartment building for no more than a minute or two, making a brief statement:. 

"I’m of course very happy to be free and with my parents again.and I want to thank all the people all over the world -- which I’m just finding out about, really -- who, whether they knew me or not, helped me and my family during this period. I don’t have any specific plans for the moment I just want to be with my parents and my friends and relax."


Her father, Reza Saberi, appeared alongside her. He said international pressure got his daughter released. He told reporters it was possible that she would begin working again, though first she'd have to recover from her long ordeal. He was careful with his words. 

The previous night, hours after Roxana's release, Reza Saberi appeared at a forum at a cultural center operated by the Austrian government. Instead of speaking about his daughter or his family's plight, he delivered a speech on the merits of Persian poetry, mysticism and Islam, much to the confusion of the swarm of reporters gathered.

Observers whispered that some kind of deal must have been struck behind the scenes. 

"Was Roxana a victim of politics?" a reporter asked Reza Saberi at today's impromptu news conference. 

He paused. 

"It’s possible," he said. 

Some analysts abroad speculated that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad secured Saberi's release to score points ahead of June 12 presidential elections. But his calls for the judiciary to review the case more likely were an effort at damage control meant to prevent him from losing potential supporters. 

Indeed, far from praising Ahmadinejad for helping secure Saberi's release, his rivals were sharpening the knives. 

"What is the point of the government making up a dossier about a woman and then botching up the dossier and having to release her?" conservative presidential candidate Mohsen Rezai asked an audience at Tehran's Sharif University. 

The crowd erupted with hearty applause and cheers.

-- Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran and Borzou Daragahi in Beirut
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