My colleague Robert Dreyfuss wonders whether Roxana Saberi, the American journalist who was recently released after being sentenced to eight-years in prison in Iran, is as innocent as she seems. Based on what, exactly? That she made a trip to Israel? And copied a document? With all due respect, I see nothing in this article in the Independent to suggest that Saberi, who was originally arrested for buying a bottle of wine, did anything wrong.
Glenn Greenwald, meanwhile, has pointed to the hypocrisy of American reporters who rallied to Saberi's defense but have been silent about the plight of journalists like Sami Al-Haj, an Al Jazeera cameraman who was held for six years in Guantanamo by our government. Fair enough, but then Greenwald, who has written incisively and admirably about torture and American legal affairs, adds:
In Iran, at least Saberi received the pretense of an actual trial and appeal (one that resulted in her rather rapid release, a mere three weeks after she was convicted), as compared to the journalists put in cages for years by the U.S. Government with no charges of any kind, or as compared to the individuals whom we continue to abduct, transport to Bagram, and insist on the right to imprison indefinitely with no charges of any kind…
A brief reality check: Iran puts people – indeed, bloggers who write far milder things than Greenwald – in cages for years all the time for daring to criticize their government. One such blogger, Omidreza Mirsayafi, died in an Iranian prison this past March. Iran ranked 166th out of 173 countries in a report on world press freedom put out by Reporters Without Borders last year. Until we know more, there is no reason to cast doubt on Saberi's innocence, or to credit Iran with treating journalists more leniently than any country other than, perhaps, North Korea.