DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – An Al-Jazeera journalist was freed from Iranian custody Wednesday and has returned to her network's home base in Qatar, An Iranian official and the network said.
Iranian-born Dorothy Parvaz, who also has U.S. and Canadian citizenship, disappeared after arriving in Syria April 29 to cover anti-government protests. Syria said she was deported to Iran, an important ally, shortly after her arrival.
Al-Jazeera, a satellite TV news network broadcasting in Arabic and English, confirmed her release, saying Parvaz, 39, is "safe and well and back with us" in the capital Doha.
Parvaz's fiance, Todd Barker, said he was surprised when she called him early Wednesday from Qatar as she was clearing customs.
"I looked at my phone, saw it was her number and God, it was ... unreal," he said. Parvaz told him that she was "treated very well, she was interrogated, but she's fine," he added.
Tehran's chief prosecutor, Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi, confirmed Parvaz's release Wednesday.
"The Al-Jazeera reporter had been handed over to Iranian authorities. After investigations were made, it became clear that there was nothing wrong with her passport. So it was ordered that she be freed," the official IRNA news agency quoted Dowlatabadi as saying.
Iranians do not need advance visas to enter Syria. Those entering on Canadian and U.S. passports need to get visas.
Iran had not commented on her case until Tuesday, when its Foreign Ministry spokesman said she had attempted to enter Syria with an expired Iranian passport and without proper press clearance.
The official, Ramin Mehmanparast, stopped short of admitting she was being held in Iran. He said Parvaz was traveling with several passports when she was detained.
Iran does not recognize multiple nationalities for Iranians.
Al-Jazeera said Parvaz landed in the Qatari capital on Wednesday on a flight from Iran.
"She has been in contact with her family, and we are with her now to find out more about her ordeal over the last eighteen days," an Al-Jazeera spokesman said. The network said she was not allowed any contact with the outside world while she was detained.
The Associated Press could not immediately reach officials at Canada's embassy in Kuwait, which handles consular matters for Qatar. The U.S. embassy in Qatar did not immediately comment.
After Parvaz went missing in Syria, a Facebook page entitled "Free Dorothy Parvaz" was created and attracted about 16,400 followers. Her brother, Dan Parvaz, announced her release in a post on the page early Wednesday.
"While I'm grateful to the Iranian government for her treatment and release, I'm more grateful to all of you." he wrote. "You kept the faith, made phone calls, wrote letters, rallied, watched the media ... and never lost hope."
Barker said he had no prior indication that Parvaz would be released and described her phone call as "out of the blue."
"When you don't hear from somebody you love for 19 days ... you don't know if they're dead, don't know if they're alive, you don't know if they're being tortured."
Barker said Parvaz would be returning to Canada at some point, but could not say when.
"She can't get to Vancouver fast enough, in my opinion," he said.
The government of Syrian President Bashar Assad has banned most outside journalists and placed strict controls on the few media outlets remaining in the country.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said about 20 local and international journalists have been assaulted or detained in Syria or expelled from the country since the protests against Assad broke out in March.
Two Associated Press journalists were expelled from the country with 45 minutes' notice. Five Reuters journalists also faced detention and intimidation, including one who was expelled by Syrian authorities on March 25 after five years as the agency's correspondent in Damascus.
Ali Akbar Dareini contributed to this report from Tehran, Iran.