In her first interview since being released from prison in Iran, Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi speaks with NPR News' All Things Considered about her detainment, interrogation, trial, retrial and eventual release. Saberi tells host Melissa Block: "I was under severe psychological and mental pressure, although I was not physically tortured. The first few days, I was interrogated for several hours, from morning until evening, blindfolded, facing a wall, by up to four men, and threatened...that I would be put in prison for 10 to 20 years or more or even face execution. And I was in solitary confinement for several days. The really difficult thing was, they didn't let me tell anyone where I was."
The interview with Saberi is airing today on NPR News' All Things Considered. For local stations and broadcast times, visit www.NPR.org/stations.
The following are excerpts from the NPR News interview:
- When asked about the circumstances of her arrest, Saberi tells NPR: "Until this day, I'm still not sure what they arrested me for. It wasn't for buying alcohol; it wasn't for reporting without a press pass. My interrogators claimed that I was spying for the U.S. and however much I told them that I was not - that I was simply writing a book and doing interviews for a book, which I hoped to use to show English speakers around the world a more balanced and complete picture of Iranian society. However much I told them this, they told me I was lying and that I was a U.S spy."
- Addressing the false confession she made under duress, she says: "After I realized that nobody knew where I was, I was very afraid, and my interrogators threatened me and said, if you don't confess to being a U.S. spy, you could be here for many years - 10 years or 20 years, or you could even face execution. And I thought, well if something happens to me, my family doesn't know where I am. Maybe they would never find out. And so, I made a false confession, and I said, 'Yes, I'm a U.S. spy.'"
- On her reasons for recanting that confession, Saberi says: "I learned a lot from the other political prisoners there, too, because after several weeks, I was put into a cell with them. Many of those women were there because they are standing up for human rights or the freedom of belief or expression. Many of them are still there today; they don't enjoy the same kind of international support that I did. And they're not willing to give in to pressures to make false confessions or to sign off to commitments not to take part in their activities once they're released; they would rather stay in prison and stand up for those principles that they believe in."
- When asked how she acquired the document on the U.S. invasion of Iraq while working for the Center for Strategic Research, an Iranian government think-tank, she says: "You know, I'm a naturally curious person, and in hindsight, I shouldn't have copied it, but it wasn't classified as far as I could tell. I wanted it for historical perspective, because I knew it was an old document."
- On whether she plans to return to Iran, Saberi says: "I'm proud to be an American; I'm proud to be a Japanese; and I'm proud to be an Iranian. I went to Iran because I wanted to learn more about my father's native country and to learn the language. And I learned to love the country. Most of the people there were so hospitable to me - so kind and so generous. And definitely, I hope to go back someday."