Apparently, all that talk about friendship and Nowruz greetings hasn’t helped. Early last month, I wrote about the suspicious disappearance of American journalist Roxana Saberi in Iran after running afoul of the police for “illegal reporting”. Today, Fox and AP both report that the Iranians have charged Saberi with espionage for her efforts to write a book about the Iranian people:
The lawyer for an Iranian-American journalist detained in Iran says she has been charged with espionage.
The lawyer, Abdolsamad Khorramshahi, says Roxana Saberi has been informed of the charges against her.
Saberi has apparently been held since late January on charges of purchasing alcohol, but the real crime is journalism without a license. Iran revoked Saberi’s permission to work as a journalist, but she chose to remain behind anyway to work on her book. Iranians often revoke permits for journalists while ignoring their work, but they obviously came to a different decision about Saberi — at the same time Barack Obama took the oath of office.
Joe Biden warned in October that nations would find ways to test a new, inexperienced President, and this looks like that kind of effort. The Iranians have gone out of their way to reject Obama’s overtures since he took office, including his call for greater dialogue. They have cemented their position on nuclear research, and have done their best to look as intransigent as possible. Thus far, they have not gotten Obama to push back against their rhetoric.
The trial of Roxana Saberi looks like another boundary test. Will Obama demand Saberi’s release publicly? Will Iran use it as a bargaining chip for further concessions? We will soon see how Obama responds to this test. In the meantime, keep Saberi and her family in your prayers.