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Washington, D.C., May 29, 2009 - Journalist Roxana Saberi, jailed in Iran for over three months, told the Voice of America (VOA) in an exclusive Farsi interview aired today that the people of Iran are "kind and hospitable" and she would definitely like to return someday.
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Saberi, in her only Farsi-language interview conducted by VOA's Persian News Network (PNN), also said international pressure was "very effective" in helping secure her release from prison, as were her parents. "Without the international support, I would still be in prison," she said.
The 32-year-old North Dakotan was convicted of spying for the United States in a closed-door trial in Iran, but an appeals court later reduced her sentence to a two-year suspended term. U.S. officials denied the charges and repeatedly demanded Saberi's release.
During her imprisonment, Saberi said she was subjected to "extreme psychological pressure," including solitary confinement for part of the time. Under those circumstances, she said she confessed to being a spy, but later recanted. "I lied a lot in the confession," she said.
As for her future, Saberi, who was released May 11, said she would like to introduce Iran to outsiders. "There are different people, different groups and this is the beauty of Iran," said Saberi, whose father is Iranian-born.
After working in Iran for six years as a journalist, including providing stories to VOA, Saberi had hoped to write a book about the country, depicting its rich history and society. "I realized what a beautiful culture, what hospitable and kind people Iranians are." She added: "I would definitely love to return to Iran someday."
Saberi's 20-minute interview, conducted by well-known PNN anchor Setareh Derakhshesh, aired on the network's flagship news program, News and Views, seen in Iran at 9 p.m.
VOA's PNN has the largest combined radio and television audience of all international broadcasters in Iran, with one in four adult Iranians tuning in to a VOA show at least once a week. VOA's PNN broadcasts seven hours of television daily, repeated in a 24-hour format, and five hours of radio. Broadcasts are available on demand at www.VOAPNN.com.
For media inquiries about Ms. Saberi, please contact Denise Godoy at email@example.com. For more information on the interview, please call VOA Public Relations at (202) 203-4959, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
VOA is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. Government. Broadcasting in 45 languages, VOA produces approximately 1,500 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week for an estimated worldwide audience of more than 134 million people.