Roxana Saberi (To Be?) Released

Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi is slated to be freed today, after Iranian courts reduced her sentence for espionage from eight years to two years suspended.

Originally arrested for buying alcohol and later charged with espionage, Saberi only recently ended a hunger strike in protest of her imprisonment, when an appeals court agreed to hear her case. Though Saberi's original trial was held behind closed doors, her appeal "was arranged to appear fair and open." The appeal took place before a panel of three judges, and lasted much longer than the initial trial, which Saberi's father described as a "mock trial" that lasted only minutes.

Many aspects of the case remain murky. It's unclear why her appeal date was moved forward, from Tuesday to Sunday. The evidence against her still hasn't been released. One of Saberi's prospective lawyers was not allowed to meet with her in prison, and the paperwork she signed for her appeal was at one point "lost." And although Saberi has ostensibly been freed, her father told Reuters today he was still standing in front of the prison, waiting for her release.

Many suspect that Saberi's arrest was motivated by political concerns. Iranian conservatives may have wanted to derail the Iranian-American peace process, or the Iranian government may have wanted to use Saberi as a "bargaining chip." Whatever the case, Iran seems to have pulled back — but Saberi's fate will only be certain once she is actually released.

Less fortunate are journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling, who were captured May 17 by the North Korean military on the border with China, where they were covering North Korean defectors. Ling and Lee have received less press than Saberi, in part because the U.S. hopes, according to the Wall Street Journal, "that not provoking the North Koreans may lead to a speedy resolution." But the two remain in custody, a source says "North Korea isn't talking to the U.S. at all," and many speculate that hardliners have gained power in the wake of Kim Jong Il's illness, and are forcing North Korea into an increasingly hostile relationship with the West. Now that Saberi is free, perhaps diplomats can turn their attentions to Lee and Ling — but their case remains far more uncertain, and the three women together form a disturbing pattern of U.S. journalists held for political gain.

Reporter's Hearing In Iran Moved Up [NYT]
U.S.-Born Reporter Freed: Iranian Judiciary Source [Reuters]
Roxana Saberi, US-Iranian Journalist, 'To Be Freed' [TimesOnline]
Iranian-American Journalist ‘To be Freed' [Financial Times]
US Journalist Appeals Against Spying Sentence [Independent]
Iran 'To Release' Reporter Saberi [BBC]

Earlier: U.S. Journalist Held In Iran Continues Hunger Strike
Roxana Saberi Ends Hunger Strike
American Journalists To Face North Korean "Justice"