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David A. Andelman: The Political Undertones of Roxana Saberi's Release

A global campaign mounted for weeks by diplomats, statesmen, scholars, and scores of her fellow journalists finally paid off early Monday when Roxana Saberi walked out of the doors of Evin Prison in Tehran and, accompanied by her father, headed for the first leg of her journey back to her home in the United States. I was one of those who pitched in as a member of the Leadership Council of the Committee to Protect Journalists that was seeking her freedom. Indeed, the CPJ pulled out all stops—enlisting an international legal team at the law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton under the direction of James C. Goodale, journalists, and organizations across Europe and the Middle East—in an effort to help the Iranian leadership understand how counter-productive the actions of their legal system would be at a time when the United States is doing its best to open a constructive dialogue with the government in Tehran. Part of this involved a host of direct and indirect points of contact. For myself, I refused to appear again on Press-TV—the Iranian version of France 24, Voice of America, or other government-owned broadcast outlets—until Roxana was freed and allowed to leave Iran. Clearly stung by this one-man effort, one senior producer for Press TV observed that my boycott would be “counter-productive at this time when the two governments are trying to open a dialogue.” I pointed out that even more counter-productive were the actions against Roxana, a professional journalist thoroughly innocent of the charges brought against her—who, in contravention of every known international juridical standard, was hustled through a judicial proceeding in a single day, sentenced to eight years in prison, and never allowed to examine any of the evidence against her, or allowed to confront any of her accusers. Indeed, the entire process, cloaked in mystery, was a most unfortunate demonstration of how strained the quality of justice, let alone mercy, remains in many of the darkest corners of the world—especially Iran.

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