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Saberi To Iran: Free My Cellmate Silva Harotonian

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PARIS — American-Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi called Wednesday for the release of a former cellmate _ a U.S. aid agency worker held in an Iranian prison _ and expressed worry about those detained during opposition protests in Tehran.

Saberi, jailed in Iran on spying charges and released last month, told The Associated Press she hopes to help other prisoners she says have been wrongly accused.

"I was very fortunate to have been freed and fortunate because there was a lot of international attention on my case," Saberi said in Paris on Wednesday.

Saberi appealed for the release of Silva Harotonian, an Iranian citizen who was helping run a maternal and child health project for the U.S.-based International Research and Exchanges Board. The 34-year-old Harotonian was convicted of trying to foster a "soft" revolution in Iran and sentenced in January to three years in prison.

"When I was freed, I left a lot of people behind, a lot of innocent people. So I hope that in some small way I can use my experiences to help others like Silva, whether they're in Iran or in others countries," Saberi added.

Also joining the appeal were Robert Pearson, IREX president; Karim Lahidji, president of the International Federation for the League of Human Rights; and Hadi Ghaemi, coordinator of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

Saberi said that her dual citizenship helped her garner media attention, which she said helped her get out of jail.

The 32-year-old Saberi was arrested in January, convicted of spying for the United States in a closed-door trial, and initially sentenced to eight years in prison. She was then granted a two-year suspended sentence, and was freed May 11. Saberi shared a cell with Harotonian for several weeks.

Saberi said she was disturbed by the unrest in Iran, where several people have been killed in clashes between police and opposition protesters who say the June 12 presidential election was rigged.

"It's been very inhumane," she said of the authorities' crackdown on protesters.

"I'm very sad when I see the scenes of my friends, about the violence towards peaceful protesters, and about the many detainees who have been arrested in the past few days," Saberi said.

"I am very worried about their welfare, and I think they are probably going through much more difficult times than I was," she added.

Raised in Fargo, North Dakota, Saberi worked as a freelance journalist in Iran for the BBC and other news organizations. The United States called the charges against her baseless and repeatedly demanded her release.