ABC will have an exclusive television interview with journalist Roxana Saberi, who just left an Iranian prison to return to the US after getting convicted of espionage. Saberi, whose case made international headlines and eventually got released by the Iranians, says she initially confessed to the charges after being promised her release if she did. However, her immediate recantation angered prosecutors, who threw the book at her:
Saberi, who turned 32 in prison, said that while she was never physically tortured, she was subjected to hours-long interrogation sessions, during which she was blindfolded and bombarded with questions by a group of men who promised her freedom if she confessed to being a spy.
“Since they were making these threats to me — that I would have to remain in jail if I did not make this confession — and because nobody knew where I was, I confessed to being a U.S. spy,” she said. “I thought I had to do this to be free, but my conscience got the better of me.”
What she did next, Saberi said, may have contributed to her eight-year sentence.
“I felt that the God that I had felt before had abandoned me was still with me, but he wasn’t pleased with me and so I recanted my confession, knowing full well that it would mean I wouldn’t be free,” she said. “And indeed the prosecutor was quite angry with me and he sent my case to trial.”
Despite the anguish that followed, Saberi said she’s glad she stuck by her decision.
Interestingly, a letter from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seems to have made the difference. Ahmadinejad told George Stephanopoulos that nothing he could do would deflect the judgment of the court:
“I am not a judge. And I do not pass judgment over judicial cases. In Iran the judiciary is independent. Our judiciary is not a political apparatus. It passes judgment in accordance with the law.”
Ahmadinejad eventually sent a letter to the appeals court, and Saberi’s sentence was reduced shortly thereafter.
Everything in Iran runs through the ruling mullahs, including Ahmadinejad and the courts. Iran is a theocracy, not a republic with independent and self-checking branches of government. Ahmadinejad’s letter served notice to the court that the mullahs had decided that the case was causing them too many headaches and to find a way to get Saberi out of Iran wihout losing face. The reduced sentence came immediately afterwards, and Saberi is now home.
Saberi says she wants to finish work on the book she had started in Iran. It should make for a very interesting, and at least occasionally harrowing, read.