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Iran minister says freed journalist was US spy

IRAN'S intelligence chief insisted yesterday that American journalist Roxana Saberi was guilty of spying for the United States because the appeals court that reduced her prison sentence and freed her did not acquit her of the original charges.

The comments by Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi could be an attempt by hard-liners to show they did not totally cave in to US pressure over Saberi's case. The US had called the spying charges baseless and demanded the journalist's release.

Saberi was originally convicted of spying in a brief, closed-door trial and sentenced to eight years in prison. The 32-year-old dual Iranian-American citizen, who spent four months in prison, was freed on Monday and reunited with her parents after an appeal court reduced her sentence to a two-year suspended sentence.

Ejehi said Saberi was guilty despite her release because the court had accepted the Intelligence Ministry's view that she had spied for the US.

"That the verdict against her is a two-year jail term is proof of being guilty," Iranian state television quoted Ejehi as saying after a Cabinet meeting in Tehran yesterday.

One of Saberi's lawyers, Saleh Nikbakht, revealed on Tuesday that she was convicted of spying in part because she had a copy of a confidential Iranian report on the US war in Iraq.

Saberi, according to Nikbakht, had copied the report "out of curiosity" while she worked as a freelance translator for a powerful body connected to Iran's ruling clerics.

Nikbakht said yesterday that Saberi was waiting to get her Iranian and American passports back from the government in order to leave the country.


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