VIENNA – U.S.-born journalist Roxana Saberi arrived in Austria on Friday from Iran after authorities there freed her from a Tehran prison and quashed her eight-year sentence for spying in a diplomatically fraught case.
Saberi, 32, who was with her parents, planned to stay in Vienna with local Iranian friends for a few days to rest on her way back to the United States, said Austrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal.
On arriving at Vienna airport, she thanked the people around the world who had campaigned for her release.
I heard that certain people, many people, went through a lot of troubles because of me, and some went on a hunger strike, she told CNN. It was very moving for me to hear this.
Saberi, who has both U.S. and Iranian citizenship and has worked for NPR and the BBC, was arrested in January for working in Iran after her media credentials had expired. She was later accused of spying, found guilty and jailed for eight years.
Saberi was freed from prison on Monday after having her sentence cut, on appeal, to a suspended two-year term.
She was well but upset that she could not return to Iran soon to do reporting, her Iranian lawyer, Abdolsamad Khorramshahi, told Reuters on Thursday.
Saberi's other defense lawyer, Saleh Nikbakht, said the change in the verdict was due to a different interpretation of the relevant law, not political considerations.
Her release on Monday removed a possible hindrance to President Barack Obama's attempts to thaw U.S. relations with the Islamic Republic after three decades of frozen enmity.
Obama welcomed Saberi's release as a humanitarian gesture.
The two countries are at odds over Iran's uranium enrichment program, which the West fears is ultimately meant to produce atomic bombs. Iran says it wants only an alternative source of electricity from nuclear energy.
The United States had said the Saberi charges were baseless and demanded her immediate release. Tehran does not recognize dual nationality and told Washington not to interfere.
Obama has offered Iran a fresh start in relations, though Iran says Washington must first show real policy change.
Analysts and diplomats said Saberi's arrest should not be seen as a sign that Iran is rejecting Obama's overture, but that her case and her release may have been influenced by it.
Some regarded the arrest as a warning to foreign media ahead of Iran's June presidential election. Others said it could have been a ploy by Islamic hardliners to foil any relaxation in U.S.-Iran relations or to use her as a bargaining chip.