Roxana Saberi, an Iranian-American, has been jailed for eight years for espionage in Tehran. Yet she is not a spy. She is a journalist, arrested for possession of a bottle of wine and convicted after a parody of a trial that was held in secret and lasted a few minutes.
This process was not due process, despite the intervention of an apparently embarrassed President Ahmadinejad, whose chief of staff wrote to the prosecutor to insist that Ms Saberi be allowed to defend herself. Nor is her sentence anything but a ham-fisted provocation.
It is not yet clear who within the Iranian regime is responsible for hounding Ms Saberi. But it is clear who and what will suffer. Until her release has been secured it will be politically impossible for President Obama to proceed with his efforts to break the 30-year impasse in US-Iranian relations. And until that impasse is broken, Iranians will continue to live in virtual isolation from a global economy and political system to which they have much to contribute, and from which much to gain.
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