Sadegh Zibakalam, a well-known professor of political science at Tehran University, has issued an open letter
to the head of Iran’s Judiciary Ayatollah Hashemi Shahrudi in support of jailed U.S. journalist Roxana Saberi
, who has been sentenced to eight years in prison after being convicted of espionage.
Zibakalam wrote that the Saberi case is similar to the cases of other Iranian-American citizens who were jailed in Iran in recent years, including scholar Haleh Esfandiari.
He wrote that the detention and conviction of Saberi on charges of espionage is worrying. He added that the charges of “espionage,” “creating a velvet revolution,” “working with foreigners,” and other similar charges have been used for a number of cases in Iran without any legal justification.
In an interview with RFE/RL, Zibakalam said that he knows Saberi personally and believes that the charges against her are baseless. He said that the last time he met Saberi, she told him that she was worried as she hadn’t been able to prolong her press accreditation. He said “how can someone who cannot even get a new accreditation be a spy?”
In the letter to the head of Iran’s judiciary Zibakalam wrote: “If Saberi is really a spy, then I should be put on trial in the same court as her accomplice because she interviewed me a number of times and translated some of my columns from different newspapers and sent them to foreign websites.”
When asked by RFE/RL about the possible motivation behind the case, Zibakalam speculated that it could be an attempt “to sabotage” Obama’s engagement efforts
Zibakalam said he decided to write the open letter after a piece he had written about the Saberi case was not published by a moderate newspaper because of the "sensitivity" of the issue.
-- Golnaz Esfandiari