I was in Tehran when they arrested Maziar Bahari, a journalist and documentalist who was working for Newsweek. They interrogated him, with daily beatings, for 118 days before releasing him (this is his account on what happened). Then they wanted him to become a spy for the Iranian regime. He refused.
Now he’s been sentenced to 13 years in prison and 74 lashes. On reviewing the accusations he’s been declared guilty of, he says: “The six charges I was sentenced for and the reason for the sentences, as my interrogator and the resident judge told me, are as follows, and they will tell you more about the regime than about me. I was, after all, just doing what a reporter does. But like the interrogators in George Orwell’s 1984, those at work in Iran’s justice system today are not interested in having you tell the truth, they are intent on making you accept their truth” (read about each of the charges and the facts here).
Bahari is a Canadian citizen born in Iran and his mother and family live there. He won’t be able to go visit them anymore, of course. And they’ve threatened him, saying that they could kidnap him anywhere in the world.
He says he feels safe at home. But he reminds us all of the fate of our colleagues in Iran, a country described by the Commitee to Protect Journalists as the world’s biggest jail for journalists, with 35 imprisoned and another 18 detainees free on short-term furloughs:
“I can write these lines with my tongue firmly in my cheek from the safety of my house in London, of course, but more than 30 journalists, writers, and bloggers are still languishing in Iran’s prisons. Dozens of others are either out on bail or furlough and can be put in prison anytime the Revolutionary Guards desire. Hundreds of other Iranians are in jail for charges that are even more absurd than mine. Five activists were executed on May 8, and 25 others are on death row.”