Njoroge Wachai at PostGlobal

Njoroge Wachai

Kenya

Njoroge is a journalist who formerly worked for the Kenya-based People Daily. He was Africa Correspondent for the Science and Development Network (SciDev.net), a UK-based web site highlighting science and technology issues from developing countries. He also freelanced for the Switzerland-based Bulletin of the World Health Organization (WHO). Njoroge was a press fellow at the Wolfson College, University of Cambridge for four months in 2003, where he researched the role of alternative press in the democratization process in Africa. Njoroge currently lives in the U.S. He has studied Journalism and Technical Communication at the graduate level. Close.

Njoroge Wachai

Kenya

Njoroge is a journalist who formerly worked for the Kenya-based People Daily. more »

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Saberi's Travesty of Justice

It shouldn't surprise anyone that a kangaroo court in Iran has finally handed down an eight-year jail sentence to Roxana Saberi, an Iranian-American journalist, for spying for the United States. The harsh sentence was practically preordained, given Iran's awful record of suppressing freedom of the press. It's probably just what the ruthless and autocratic mullahs in Tehran had in mind when they first accused Saberi of buying a bottle of wine.

As a journalist, and one who has received death threats for my writing, I find her cause particularly compelling. If indeed Iran had irrefutable evidence that Saberi was a spy, why did they try her behind closed doors? An open trial would have been a golden opportunity for Iran to lay bare the spying charges for the whole world to see, to unveil this American conspiracy against it.

Iran's hate-spewing president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad now says Saberi should be accorded full attorney representation in her appeal against the sentence. This is an implicit admission that the trial was a farce. It's ironic that a country that accuses the U.S. and other western countries of subjecting weak countries to injustice wouldn't accord a young and harmless journalist like Saberi a fair trial.

The charges that Saberi was spying for the United States are baseless. The amateurish manner in which Iran concocted the espionage charge raises serious questions about the theocracy that runs Iran. The government first accused Saberi of buying a bottle of wine. Then it claimed she was practicing journalism without a permit. And finally it accused her of spying for the "infidels"- the Americans. Within a period of two months a charge of buying a bottle of wine morphed into an espionage charge punishable with eight years in jail. What a travesty of justice.

I'm not particularly knowledgeable on espionage matters, but I can't imagine a spy agency recruiting a journalist for a spy assignment. The suspicion that we arouse everywhere we go should automatically disqualify us from any espionage job. I speak from experience: I've listed journalism as my occupation in my passport, and every time I travel, especially to countries with a poor record in human rights, immigration officials always demand I explain my mission.

So I can't see how the CIA would have chosen Saberi, a well-known journalist, as its agent in Iran. It would have been foolish and irresponsible to do so.

Iran is holding her because its leaders are paranoid about anyone with links to Western countries, and readily jails bloggers and human rights activists who have contacts with the West. By jailing Saberi, the Iranian theocracy wants to warn any Iranian with dual citizenship against attempting any action that the government might deem anti-American. It's a signal to those Iranians. It says, "We are watching you."

Iran's attempt to use Saberi as a pawn in its war with the West is shameless. We must condemn it in the strongest terms possible. And those of us who support what Saberi stands for must campaign for her release - both inside and outside Iran. There's already a web site, a Facebook page and a Twitter account dedicated to this cause.


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