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As Clinton calls on Iran to release US journalist, commentators decry 'farce'

The most unique explanation for the conviction of Roxana Saberi on espionage charges may be an allegory about US, Russian, and Iranian intelligence services hunting for a rabbit.

By / April 20, 2009



US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Monday for Iran to release journalist Roxana Saberi immediately, telling reporters at the State Department that the espionage charges levied against her were "baseless":

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She has been subjected to a process that has been non-transparent, unpredictable [and] arbitrary.... We hope that actions will be taken as soon as possible by the authorities in Iran, including the judiciary, to bring about the speedy release of Miss Saberi and her return home.

Earlier Monday, Iran’s Judiciary Chief Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi had called for a quick consideration of Saberi's appeal, after she was convicted Saturday and sentenced to eight years in jail.

His demand came a day after US President Barack Obama said he was “deeply disappointed” by the sentence and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad intervened, asking the judiciary to ensure the Iranian-American’s full legal rights – as The Christian Science Monitor reported Sunday:

Analysts say the timing of Saberi's arrest in late January and the severity of her sentence – ordered after a closed-door trial that began last Monday – is no coincidence, and may be an effort by right-wing factions in Iran to complicate or disrupt chances of talks between the US and Iran. Or, it may be to improve Iran's negotiating position in any future talks.

While news reports have cautiously explored Iran’s motives for charging Ms. Saberi, a former beauty queen who was studying for her third master’s degree, many Western commentators have been swift to condemn the 'farce,' as a New York Times editorial called it.

An allegory: Iran, the US, and Russia on a rabbit hunt
The most unique explanation – at least in the Western press – may well come from Omid Memarian, a blogger and World Peace Fellow at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. He offers the following allegory, saying “practically anyone in Iran who has anything to do with politics knows this story”:

Once there was a competition between Iran, the U.S. and Russia's intelligence services. The challenge was; who could find a rabbit in the Amazon in the shortest amount of time. The Russians do their very best and they bring the rabbit back in three days. The Americans use their entire cutting edge satellite technology and they find the rabbit in 2 days. The Iranians come back after 24 hours with a bear. The Americans and the Russians say to Iranians "But that's not a rabbit! Where is the rabbit?" And the Iranians say, "Ask the bear." And the bear says, "I am the rabbit. Believe me, I am the rabbit."

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