An editorial by Dale McFeatters, Scripps Howard News Service:
The trial in Tehran of a young Iranian American journalist was such a travesty it appears to have even embarrassed Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a man thought incapable of embarrassment.
The president wrote a letter to Tehran’s top prosecutor urging him to make sure the that the accused enjoys “all freedoms and legal rights to defend themselves and (that) their rights are not violated,” indicating that he thought these niceties had been missing from Roxana Saberi’s first brush with Iranian justice.
Almost immediately, Iran’s judiciary ordered a full investigation of the case and the authorities finally allowed Saberi’s parents to visit her. Saberi, 31, is almost certainly an innocent victim of a backstage power struggle in advance of a coming presidential election and in the context of Ahmadinejad warming to the idea of a dialogue with the new Obama administration.
Her case reeks of a frame up. She was initially arrested for buying a bottle of wine, illegal but widely done. That charge was upgraded to reporting, for the BBC and NPR, among others, on expired press credentials. Finally, the authorities settled on espionage.
After a closed trial called on short notice, Saberi was convicted of spying for the United States and sentenced to eight years. The Iranian authorities say Saberi confessed, but her father says she was told she would be released if she signed. In any case, Saberi, like every foreign journalist in Iran, was surely cognizant of the fate of Iranian Canadian freelance photographer Zahra Kazemi, who in 2003 was tortured and beaten to death in that same Evin prison.
If the Iranian officials behind this arrest thought they could quietly hold Saberi for later bargaining purposes with the United States, they were wrong. Both President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have spoken out; the Swiss have intervened; and Iran’s Nobel Prize-winning human rights lawyer, Shirin Ebadi, has joined the appeal. Ahmadinejad knows that he will be dogged by accusatory questions about the case every time he leaves the country.
There is a simple solution: Just let her go. Make up some face-saving excuse if necessary, but let her to. Saberi is someone Iran should be proud of. U.S.-born of Iranian immigrant parents, she grew up in Fargo, N.D., graduated from Northwestern University and was a Miss North Dakota.
Iran claims it doesn’t get the respect in the world it deserves. And it doesn’t. The case of Roxana Saberi is one of the many reasons why.
(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, http://www.scrippsnews.com)