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Forum editorial: Celebrate Roxana Saberi's freedom

The release of Fargo journalist Roxana Saberi from an Iranian prison is reason for celebration. It's also an opportunity to contemplate Iran's motives: first, for imprisoning her in the first place, and, second, for releasing her.

The release of Fargo journalist Roxana Saberi from an Iranian prison is reason for celebration. It's also an opportunity to contemplate Iran's motives: first, for imprisoning her in the first place, and, second, for releasing her.

Saberi, a Fargo North High School and Concordia College graduate, had been in Iran for six years. She was working as a journalist and had received excellent reviews for her work for National Public Radio and the BBC. Her press credentials were yanked by Iranian authorities, but she stayed in the country while working on a book.

She was arrested on what first appeared to be a minor infraction, but the initial explanation for her arrest evolved into a very serious charge of espionage. She was tried in a closed court, convicted and sentenced to eight years. In releasing her Monday, Iranian authorities said her appeal resulted in a two-year suspended sentence. She's on her way home to Fargo with her parents, who have been in Iran during the duration of her imprisonment and trials.

Note that Iran suspended the sentence. It was not a dismissal or commutation. In other words, the Iranian court did not back off the unsubstantiated allegation of spying for the U.S. The world might never know what prompted Iran to free Saberi, but it is likely that U.S. backdoor negotiations and global support for the young journalist had something to do with it.

The reaction to Saberi's plight began in her hometown and spread around the world. From yellow ribbons in her north Fargo neighborhood to a media vigil on Veterans Memorial Bridge to demonstrations at Iranian embassies, Saberi's trial and arrest made headlines. Media organizations and journalists' professional groups spoke out loudly and often. Working through the Swedish Embassy, the U.S. put pressure on Iran, as did the European Union and individual EU countries.

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Iran might have miscalculated. Assuming anything about Iranian leadership is risky, but it appears the country is attempting to bridge the chasm between Iran and the U.S., which opened with the Iranian hostage crisis a generation ago and has widened ever since. Maybe by advancing the notion that Iranian courts are fair and the Saberi case is an example of that fairness, relations between the U.S. and Iran can proceed positively.

Whatever Iran's motivations, Saberi's release will be greeted in Fargo-Moorhead and elsewhere in the civilized world with relief and joy. We join with her parents and friends in celebrating her freedom, and anticipate an even larger celebration when she returns to her hometown.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper's Editorial Board.

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