Friday, October 7, 2011

Who Are Iran's Political Prisoners?

by Roxana Saberi

Wall Street Journal

October 6, 2011

Just after my release from a Tehran prison in May 2009, an Iranian prisoner wrote an open letter entitled, "I wish I were a Roxana." Haleh Rouhi, a follower of Iran's minority Baha'i faith, was serving a four-year sentence for antiregime propaganda, although she said she was simply "teaching the alphabet and numbers" to underserved children.

She was happy I was released but wondered how her case differed from mine and why she had to remain in prison. "What kind of justice system condemned [Roxana] to such punishment," Ms. Rouhi asked, "and which justice freed her at such speed?"

I asked myself the same question. Why was I released after 100 days, having appealed an eight-year prison sentence for a trumped-up charge of espionage? What is clear is that as a foreign citizen, I was fortunate to receive international support, while the plights of other innocent prisoners were less known outside Iran.

Last month, two American men incarcerated in Iran on accusations of espionage and crossing the border illegally—charges they contested—were freed after being sentenced to eight years in prison. Their release is welcome news and cause for relief.