Former Iranian prisoner Roxana Saberi said she felt God was still with her during her detainment, which gave her the strength to recant her confession that she was a U.S. spy.
"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," Saberi told Diane Sawyer in an interview aired on Good Morning America Friday. "And indeed the prosecutor was quite angry with me and he sent my case to trial."
During her nearly three-month detainment in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran, the American born journalist had turned to God in prayer. However, at a certain point she felt that God had "abandoned" her and gave into her interrogators' demand that she confess she was an American spy.
"I felt that God had abandoned me," said Saberi, who graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., which is associated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. "I felt that maybe I did something wrong in my life and I deserved this punishment. I was very afraid and so I gave in to their pressures during those first two weeks."
Interrogators had blindfolded the American born journalist and a group of men would question her for hours. She was promised freedom if she just confessed she was a spy.
"I was very afraid," she said in her first interview since her release to National Public Radio News on Thursday. "My interrogators threatened me and said, 'If you don't confess to being a U.S. spy, you could be here for many years…you could even face execution.'"
Saberi, who is a dual American Iranian citizen, had worked as a freelance journalist in Iran for six years before her arrest in late January. Some of the news organizations she has worked for include the National Public Radio (NPR), BBC, ABC and Fox.
During Saberi's trial, there were conflicting reports that she was arrested for purchasing a bottle of wine (alcohol is illegal in Iran), for working without press credentials, which were revoked in 2006, and for being a U.S. spy.
But in her interview with NPR, she said she still does not know why she was initially arrested. Saberi said in prison she was continuously forced to confess she was a U.S. spy, which she said she was not.
Although she is grateful for her freedom, she said she has a heavy conscience about the women she met in the prison and has now left behind. She feels the public will never know about them. Some of these women, who inspired Saberi during her detainment, were imprisoned for standing up for basic human rights.
"I learned many lessons, I learned that, do not fear those who can hurt your body but not your soul. No one can hurt your soul unless you let them," she said to ABC News. "I also learned that, do what you think is right even if you suffer for it, in the end you will be victorious."
Among the women still being held at Evin prison are Maryam Rostampour, 27, and Marzieh Amirizadeh, 30, both new converts to Christianity from Islam. They have been held without charge since March and their families say they are in poor health.
Christian human rights groups are working to raise awareness and support for their release from prison.
Saberi was released from Evin on May 11 and arrived in the United States last Friday. This week, she visited Washington, D.C. to thank those who helped secure her freedom, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She plans on returning home to North Dakota and finishing up her book about Iran.