Kian Tajbakhsh will get to enjoy the Iranian New Year outside of prison, with his family.
Tajbakhsh is an Iranian-American scholar who was arrested in Iran during the aftermath of the summer presidential elections there. He received his Ph.D. from Columbia and has been a faculty member at Columbia's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation since September 2009, but he has been unable to assume his position because of his detainment.
The semi-official Iranian Students' New Agency reported that Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi said Tajbakhsh was released on March 13 for 15 days, the duration of the Iranian New Year, which begins on March 21 and ends on April 4.
Iran traditionally releases some prisoners during the New Year, the Associated Press said.
Tajbakhsh had to pay $800,000 bail and is not allowed to leave Iran during this time.
His lawyer, Masoud Shafiei, said that Tajbakhsh is healthy and plans to stay with his family in Iran during the New Year.
"Kian would like to take this opportunity to extend his heartfelt thanks and appreciation to all his supporters and warm greetings to his many relatives and friends around the world," the advocacy website "Free Kian 2009" stated in a post about Tajbakhsh's release.
"He asks members of the media to kindly respect his privacy as he enjoys a precious reunion with his loving family and some long-awaited rest and respite from this 8-month-long ordeal," the site added.
"I am very happy that he will be able to spend his New Year with his friends and family, and more than that, I hope the global outcry against his incarceration will result in his freedom," Hamid Dabashi, a Columbia professor of Iranian studies, said. Dabashi and other Columbia faculty and administrators have been advocating for his release since his imprisonment began.
"I also hope we will one day have him back amongst us here at Columbia," he added.
Tajbakhsh was in Iran to work on a book when he was arrested last summer. He faces charges of spying and threatening national security. When he was arrested, he was sentenced to 15 years in Iranian prison, but last month, his sentence was reduced to five years by the Iranian Court of Appeals.
"The espionage charges leveled against Dr. Tajbakhsh are groundless," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in a letter to Columbia faculty last month in response to a letter asking for her help in obtaining Tajbakhsh's release.
Clinton wrote, "The State Department is using every available diplomatic tool to achieve Dr. Tajbakhsh's release. We continue to communicate our concern about his welfare and have asked other governments to urge the Iranian government to release him without further delay."