Iranian-Canadian reporter free on bail

Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari, who works for Newsweek magazine in Iran, has been freed on bail, Newsweek confirms.

Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari, who works for Newsweek magazine in Iran, has been freed on bail, Newsweek confirmed Saturday.

Bahari had been held in Tehran's Evin prison since June 21, when he was arrested on accusations of spying. His release was first reported by Iran's semi-official ILNA news agency.

Bahari was one of dozens of journalists detained in a widespread crackdown on the media after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's contested re-election on June 12.

"It is with great relief that we welcome the release of Maziar Bahari from prison in Iran," Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said in a statement.

"The government of Canada shares in the joy of Mr. Bahari's family, friends, colleagues and countrymen, and hopes that he will soon be able to join his wife for the birth of their first child."

While in Istanbul in August, Cannon met with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki to call for Bahari's release.

Payam Akhavan, a professor of international law at McGill University and co-founder of the U.S.-based Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre, said he thinks Iran decided to grant Bahari bail "to gain international legitimacy.

"I think on the one hand, the pressure exerted by the Canadian government has been important, but we also have to understand that the regime feels very weak and vulnerable now. It thought it had successfully crushed the democratic movement, but at the end of September, once again, 250,000 people came into the streets of Tehran protesting," Akhavan told CBC News.

"So the regime feels in order to gain some legitimacy, it has to appear somewhat lenient. Mr. Bahari’s release coincides with the release of several other protest leaders and others accused of crimes against the state," he added.

Earlier this month, Bahari spoke to his wife, Paola Gourley, by phone and learned she was having a difficult pregnancy.

She told him from her home in London that she would be having their first child two weeks early, by caesarean section, on Oct. 26, The Associated Press reported. The call was only their second since Bahari, 42, was arrested.

Akhavan said he doesn't think the Iranian-Canadian's release — reportedly granted after $300,000 bail was paid — had anything to do with his personal circumstances.

With files from The Associated Press