TEHRAN (AFP) – A lawyer for US-born reporter Roxana Saberi, freed this week from a Tehran jail, said on Wednesday the spy charges she had faced arose after she obtained a classified report on the US war on Iraq.
“She had a report about the US attack on Iraq prepared by the strategic research centre at the (Iranian) presidency,” Saleh Nikbakht told AFP.
“The research centre deemed the report as classified. But she had not used it at all.”
Nikbakht did not say how Saberi had managed to gain access to the confidential report.
Saberi’s other lawyer, Abdolsamad Khoramshahi, said the journalist received a suspended two-year jail term from the appeal court as that is the stipulated punishment for such a crime.
“She was accused of accessing secret documents. If these are used, there is a 10-year jail term, if not, then two years,” he said.
Saberi was released on Monday after her original eight-year jail term was reduced to a suspended two-year term by the appeal court. Iran’s judiciary has said Saberi’s two-year sentence would be suspended for five years.
She walked free from Tehran’s Evin prison where she was held following her arrest in January initially on charges of buying alcohol, an act prohibited in the Islamic republic.
Saberi was later accused of “cooperating with a hostile state,” a charge which carries a prison term of one to 10 years under article 508 of the Islamic republic’s penal code.
The charge was later replaced and Saberi was accused of “gathering classified information with an intention of harming national security” under article 505 of the code.
Her lawyers had defended her by saying that she could not be charged for cooperating with a hostile state, in this case the United States, as Washington and Tehran could not be defined as being hostile towards each other.
“According to international law and treaties to which Iran is a member, hostile nations are those who are at war or have been at war and are in a state of ceasefire without signing a peace treaty,” Nikbakht wrote in the reformist newspaper, Etemad Melli newspaper on Wednesday.
He said Iran approved this definition in 2003 and announced that it was not in state of hostility with any country, except with Iraq during the regime of Saddam Hussein.
Saberi’s original eight-year jail sentence had caused deep concern in Washington and among human rights groups.
The sentence against her was the harshest ever meted out to a dual national on security charges in Iran and came just weeks after US President Barack Obama proposed dialogue with Tehran after three decades of severed ties.
Saberi in her brief comments to reporters Tuesday thanked those who helped secure her release.
She said he had no plans at the moment and wanted to “relax” with her family.
Reza Saberi, her father, told reporters on Tuesday that the family was preparing to take her back to the United States.
He also said that Roxana was “not tortured” during her stay in the prison, but added that she had still not fully related her experiences in prison.
“She is telling us little by little about the jail experience. The prison atmosphere is pressurised and not good for anyone,” Saberi said.
He added that his daughter is free to leave and return to Iran.