Saberi art coincides with Clinton's Pyongyang trip on behalf of jailed Current reporters

Update: Lee and Ling were pardoned and released today.

As a Fargo artist renders one local symbol of press freedom in stencils -- journalist Roxana Saberi, who was accused of spying and jailed in Iran -- another pair of American reporters remain imprisoned in North Korea. But there's a new development in their case.

Artist Matt Mastrud -- aka Punchgut -- turned his focus from rock bands to images of Fargo-born journalist Saberi in a pair of recent works, but he says he has little political intent behind them: He just likes Saberi's smile. Saberi, accused of spying by Iranian officials, was freed after spending four months in a Tehran jail. Said Mastrud, "It was pretty much just a nod to a fellow northside Fargoan, you know?"

Saberi's fellow reporters -- Euna Lee and Laura Ling of Al Gore's news project Current TV -- haven't been as lucky: In June, they were sentenced to 12 years in a labor camp for "hostilities against the Korean nation and illegal entry."

But today there's a new development: Former President Bill Clinton has made a surprise trip to Pyongyang to plead for their release.

"This is a very potentially rewarding trip. Not only is it likely to resolve the case of the two American journalists detained in North Korea for many months, but it could be a very significant opening and breaking this downward cycle of tension and recrimination between the U.S. and North Korea," Mike Chinoy, author of "Meltdown: The Inside Story of the North Korean Nuclear Crisis," told the AP.

This morning White House press secretary Robert Gibbs released a statement on the trip: "While this solely private mission to secure the release of two Americans is on the ground, we will have no comment. We do not want to jeopardize the success of former President Clinton’s mission."

Mastrud's art in on display at Fargo's Upfront Gallery through August 15.

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