That’s as good explanation as any for a Tehran appeals court’s abrupt reversal of course in the case of Roxana Saberi, a 32 year old American journalist. Her conviction on the implausible charge of espionage may have been a case of serious misjudgment or, coming as it did after President Obama expressed openness to talks with Iran, an attempt by some in the regime to derail possible rapprochement with the United States. And it’s not like the Iranian government didn’t know she was there or what she was up to. She has reported from Iran, for NPR and the BBC among others, for the last six years.
She was arrested in January for illegally purchasing a bottle of wine. That charge was upgraded to working on press credentials that were revoked three years ago. And that charge, in turn, was increased to spying for the United States, for which she was convicted after a perfunctory, one day trial in secret and sentenced to eight years in prison. President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced the charges as bogus and called for her immediate release; so did several European nations and human rights groups. Finally, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad publicly called for her to be given a new hearing.
The appeals court knocked her sentence down to two years, suspended, and released her. An appeals court spokesman said it was a gesture of "Islamic mercy." Maybe so but it took a lot of international pressure to squeeze it out of them.
North Korea says it will put the two women on trial for "hostile acts." Unfortunately for Lee and Ling the North Korean regime is incapable of embarrassment.