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Serious situation

Jon Williams Jon Williams | 12:10 UK time, Tuesday, 14 April 2009

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the situation of Roxana Saberi, a former colleague who had been arrested in Iran. Roxana, an American citizen whose father is Iranian, has reported from Tehran for the BBC, as well as US broadcasters.

Roxana SaberiLast week we learned she had been charged with espionage. This morning, we've reported that she has been put on trial in Tehran, accused of spying for the United States.

Roxana's situation is serious - last November Iran executed an Iranian businessman convicted of spying for Israel. Given the circumstances, it is not appropriate for us to comment further - however, Roxana's case is the source of much interest elsewhere, including a thoughtful and timely column in the Wall St Journal today.

Jon Williams is the BBC World News Editor.


  • Comment number 1.

    Worrying indeed but it's always been a risk that any journalist or none diplomatic visitor has suffered in numerous countries worldwide since the 1930s - what I can't quite understand, Jon, is that whilst you say "Given the circumstances, it is not appropriate for us to comment further" you have chosen to do just that by posting this blog - considering that the news has been reported as a news story elsewhere on the BBC, are you not actually inviting further comment, that the Iranians will take as being from the BBC due to the BBC publishing such comments...

    Perhaps the comments section should be closed, or even this blog deleted?

  • Comment number 2.

    To echo the thoughts of #1 I would like to ask why the BBC are not prepared to comment further. Are you implicated in the espionage?

    And could you please advise why the BBC have neglected to state that Ms Saberi was visited by a lawyer on 10/3/09 and why the BBC have not also stated that her parents are now in Tehran although it is unclear as to whether they have managed to visit her in prison?

  • Comment number 3.

    Whilst it is painfully obvious Ms Saberi is a pawn in the diplomatic chess game that is Iranian-US relations, it is also interesting to note that the level of damage that has been dealt to the integrity of US foreign relations by the past eight years of Bush rule in the White House. Evidently it seems unremarkable to many journalists to point this out the latter in their reports regarding MS Saberi's detention. Let us just rejoice that she hasn't had a spell in a black site then been transported to a prison where the legality of her status is unchallengable, and, no-one is allowed to see her. The US is in an extremely weak position, and not explaining why this is so is tantamount to ignorance of the highest order.

  • Comment number 4.

    Pity the World News editor doesn't know the difference between who's and whose. But then, it doesn't matter too much on radio does it?

  • Comment number 5.

    When I wrote my original blog regarding the story.... I thought that the Iranian's government would have the common thing and deport Roxana Saberi, but this has escalated fast and bad...My prayers are with the family and friends....

    -Dennis Junior-

  • Comment number 6.

    I feel very sorry for this fellow human being, who may well be heading for the hangman's rope under circumstances which clearly do not justify any such penalty.

    However, in terms of the news coverage. Why is this getting disproportionate coverage compared with the substantial number of people executed in Iran?

    Some of these people have been children, learning disabilities and other vulnerable groups. Many have been convicted of 'crimes' such as 'adultery' which actually sounded more like rape. In most cases, execution is by slow hanging (not drop hanging) and in some cases it is by stoning to death.

    Normally the BBC is defending the Iranian regime from wicked American bullying and campaigning for a western withdrawl from Afghanistan so this wonderful humanitarian regime can be implemented there as well. I note that the taleban have executed a young couple (19, 21) for the 'crime' of eloping to get married without family permission. I see no front page coverage or blog posts regarding this fine act of 'justice'.

    Please make your minds up. Are you in favour of this sort of thing, or only oposed when it is a fellow journalist?

  • Comment number 7.


    I have already made a reference to the young couple on the Afghanistan blog.


    I agree that the same press who have bewailed this young woman's situation since January have been very slow to take up the mantle of those imprisoned indefinitely in Guantanamo, or subjected to extraordinary rendition and torture of a much more gruesome nature. It would seem that the double standards of sections of the media know no bounds.

    If human rights matter, as I believe they most definitely do, then they should apply globally, especially in so called civilised countries. If we ever need to be told not to be complacent about some of our freedoms in the UK it is now when matters like not being allowed to photograph a police officer loom large on our long list of infringements of our civil rights. If we wish for any foreign nation to change their attitudes then they must be able to see something in us that works and works well for everybody. I think what most countries in the Middle East are saying to us is "thanks, but no thanks".

    I wish Ms Saberi well and hope that she will be allowed to leave Iran with her parents.

  • Comment number 8.


    Well I heard about that young couple from BBC news coverage, I also learnt about how Iran hangs people and for what from the BBC, so please don't accuse the BBC of not reporting just because they won't take sides - never mind the side that fits your own views - as that is what you are asking them to do.

    Also, think for a moment, how would the BBC taking sides, or being over critical, help the person you say you feel so sorry for, as Jon Williams said, "Given the circumstances, it is not appropriate for us to comment further"...

  • Comment number 9.


    I agree that the BBC appear to be in a difficult situation although that does not necessarily fit in with the original blog (by Jon Williams on 11.3.09) that did criticise Iran for imprisoning Ms Saberi "without clarification of the charges against her". It neglected to state that on the previous day (10.3.09) Ms Saberi had been visited by a lawyer. The lawyer reported that she was in "good spirits from the knowledge of how much support there was for her". This information was freely available to anyone logging onto to her local US newspaper outlet which whilst demonstrating concern was not quite so driven by media hysteria.

  • Comment number 10.


    I don't see any "media hysteria", although I do see public hysteria within this blog at how the media is reporting this - what happened and what was said in March is different to what is happening now and what can/should be said now.

  • Comment number 11.


    I will not rise to your cheap comments but merely suggest you read Ms Saberi's local US newspaper articles and compare it to what is in the original blog and the article referred to in this blog. Even now there is a marked difference.

  • Comment number 12.

    Not sure I understand the brevity (severity even) of this blog as BBC World News carries a full report and video (dated yesterday I believe), including an interview in Tehran with Ms Saberi's father from last week.

    It would seem that Ms Saberi knew that the original charge against her was that she continued reporting (illegally) although her press card had been removed two years ago. This was changed to the more serious charge of "spying" sometime last week according to the report. I have listened to a report by Roxanna to a US radio station in 2006 on the matter of Iran's wish to have nuclear power and I must say her report sounded very balanced, well observed, and fair. She even suggested that the west were "misreading" the Iranian people.

    Since the trial is private we will not know the evidence against Ms Saberi or her defence but I do hope that the Iranian authorities see sense in this matter and release her to her parents soon.

  • Comment number 13.

    8. At 09:20am on 15 Apr 2009, Boilerplated wrote:


    Well I heard about that young couple from BBC news coverage, I also learnt about how Iran hangs people and for what from the BBC, so please don't accuse the BBC of not reporting just because they won't take sides - never mind the side that fits your own views - as that is what you are asking them to do.

    Did you hear about the hangings/shootings as a main item on page one of the site or as a main item on the mid-east/south asia pages or as something important enough to go in this blog? Or, like me, did you read about them as hidden away, totally neutral tone, side bar items?

    You're quite right, the BBC does try to be 'neutral' about the taleban/Iran etc (or is that 'uncritical'?). But they are not being neutral about this lady, presumably because she is a reporter.

    Nor were the BBC neutral/uncritical about abu-ghraib or guantanamo. None of these were hidden away on side-bars of obscure pages and the tone was anything but uncritical. Presumably because these abuses involved the US/Bush, not enemies of the US.

    If the BBC is claiming to be 'impartial' in it's reporting of iran/taleban etc, then lets see the same level of 'impartiality' on reporting of guantanamo. I won't hold my breath.

  • Comment number 14.

    BTW whilst you are correcting the typo's in the top blog please amend her name - Roxanna with two 'n's.

  • Comment number 15.


    "I will not rise to your cheap comments"

    Oh come on, do tell us what you thought was a cheap comment, or are they only cheap because they don't fit with your own views? As I said, what occurred last month - when she was charged with a completely different crime - and what is happening now are completely different...

  • Comment number 16.

    To Jon Williams

    Please explain why your blog says "it is not appropriate for us to comment further" when the channel you are the editor of is carrying full reports with commentary on Roxanna Saberi?

    There are some interesting and very full debates on the subject of Roxanna Saberi and her arrest and trial for espionage elsewhere on the Internet that do not begin with such a grave starter or indeed first comment. I have just eavesdropped on one such discussion in the US where opinion has been offered, amongst much support for her, that Ms Saberi "knew what she was doing". So why the big deal in your opening blog?

    Is the BBC afraid of "free speech" when dealing with Iran?

  • Comment number 17.

    In acknowledging some of the comments already made I wonder why the BBC is not using this blog a little more effectively. Why open it with an item that virtually invites "no comment"? What is the point of a blog on a "taboo" subject if that is what it is?

    It has already been demonstrated that you are covering the story on BBC World News; there are omissions in your resumes on both blogs which make the story rather sinister - American-Iranian freelance reporter, who had previously worked for the BBC, arrested and detained in prison in Tehran for no good reason - when we actually know that she was arrested for reporting whilst having no valid press pass. It could be argued that the original press petition rather inflamed an already delicate matter.

    When people are forced to look elsewhere to enlighten themselves about BBC reticence you find out all kinds of things, some of which are undoubtedly true since they can be easily checked. You also come across items which may not be the truth and cannot be so easily checked. For example an Indonesian news site carries a quaint translation of the story that suggests that Ms Saberi admitted all the charges against her.

    Surely it is the duty of the BBC to inform and encourage via these blogs.

  • Comment number 18.


    "Is the BBC afraid of "free speech" when dealing with Iran?"

    More likely they know when to keep their thoughts to themselves, considering that some young ladies life could be at stake, do you really think that people who matter in Iran are not monitoring what the western press (especially the UK and US press) is saying about this case...

  • Comment number 19.


    When it is the media who helped to create this young woman's precarious situation then I would suggest that the media is now being somewhat disingenuous in its protest. The damage was done over a two year period. I do not believe you understand just how much information is available via these press outlets (and elsewhere) that the Iranians have already monitored thus assisting Iran to produce the case against Roxanna Saberi and the current crisis. It is a bit late in the day to shut the stable door.

    As I said before is the BBC afraid of "free speech" when it comes to Iran?

  • Comment number 20.


    In my entry at #17 I tried to paint a picture which is more explicitly drawn in #19. For the record it would seem that when Ms Saberi first arrived in Tehran she was naive, perhaps not surprisingly given it was her first visit and she was alone.

    Roxanna gave a detailed account of her trip and arrival to a group of supporters in the US which gives insight into her naivety. She was aware of the need for a press pass and had applied months before but it had not been processed when she made her initial inquiry in Tehran. One month later her pass request was denied and it was some two months later and a further application before it was issued. She admits that the culture in Iran is difficult to understand or explain. She tells that Iran was not full of western activities and people seemed self conscious in public. She further explains that once indoors Iranians became "much more like citizens of the US".

    I am not aware of how many press passes are withdrawn in any given month in Iran but Roxanna's earlier experience in getting one may have suggested that the system is quite rigid and controlled. Perhaps she was aware that having her pass revoked was a "warning". So did she carry on reporting under advice, of her own free choice, or because she had no alternative? If she "reported" without a pass were those in the press who carried her reports aware of her situation? If aware did those in the press carrying her reports have a "conduit"?

    I have no way of knowing the answers to any of this but they are important facts connected to what happened to her in January 2009. We do know that she has been well treated in prison, and that she was aware of the charges from the earliest possible time. It is speculation as to what happened to impress upon the Iranian authorities that the charges should be more than just "not having a press pass". None of this is new information that may prejudice what happens to her now and in any event I do not believe the Iranian authorities are particularly interested in what western journalists say about them. They are more concerned with what happens on the streets of their nation.

    What is important is the behaviour of the western press towards its own readers, listeners, and viewers and in this case I do not believe that these BBC blogs do anything to support or enhance their reputation. If the BBC have something of value to say then say it or otherwise stop playing the Iranians at their own game. Yes, a young woman's life is at stake and the parties concerned (including those outside Iran) should have that on their conscience.

  • Comment number 21.

    It seems to me that this person is not just being used by Iran but those who want to bash Iran. :~(

    Ask yourself this, if you were in her possession would you want people goading the country that was holding you into ever more serious actions, remember that this person could be sentanced to death...

    Free speech is all well and good but there are times when it's best just not to say anything, this is one such time.

  • Comment number 22.

    What a bizarre set of comments. Not the original blog entry by Jon, but rather a few of the subsequent comment(er)s here, apparently more concerned with using this sensitive situation to take another pot shot at the BBC, to sniff out conspiracy/bias, than anything else. Frankly it comes across as remarkably crass. There's a time and a place for that.

    I agree with the first post - on balance, it would probably have been wiser to have not opened this blog entry up to comments.

    Boilerplated - #18 and #21 - well said.

  • Comment number 23.

    I realise this is off topic for this particular thread but unfortunately there is nowhere on the BBC where this issue is discussed.

    Regarding the news story here:

    The BBC have as usual failed to pick up on the fact that this plan by Mr Brown regards a devolved area of law i.e. education. Surely it is in the public interest to point out that the Mr Brown is talking about introducing a "Britain" wide plan when due to devolution he himself cannot vote on devolved issue laws in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

    Mr Brown can only vote on this issue in England where no-one has voted for him and no-one can vote him out.

    This is a regular problem on the BBC news site. When Mr Brown speaks on a devolved issue (education, law and order, health, transport, etc.) then adds on "Britain", "UK", "our country" or "the country" he is in fact either:

    a) making a mistake thinking that he can vote on matters that are devolved to the Scottish Parliament or Welsh and Northern Irish assemblies.
    b) Lying - to avoid raising the West Lothian Question

    Either way the BBC should point out the truth of the matter rather than letting him get away with it.

    Any chance of a thread discussing how the BBC handles devolved issues?

  • Comment number 24.

    The blog states that "last November Iran executed an Iranian businessman convicted of spying for Israel" ... that is not worrying, that is a good thing. He was spying for the enemy, he got caught and was punished. You might not agree with the death penalty, but surely you don't think a spy should be allowed to go unpunished? What should the Iranians have done instead? Given him a box of secret documents and a free flight to Tel-Aviv!?

    The Iranians are not the only nation that get spied on by Israel though. Let us not forget that AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) were caught spying on the US and that Lawrence Franklin was imprisoned for it. See and others.

  • Comment number 25.

    Firstly, The US does not allow its "spies" to use covers as reporters. It has not for years. Also -- how can anyone with reason cling to the idea that "talking" and "diplomacy" works for all countries in all situations?

    Some people(s) just can not be reasoned with.

  • Comment number 26.

    It seems to me that a number of contributors are still missing the point.

    Iran will not execute Ms Saberi out of spite for perceived western goading or whatever else the west can do. If they do the worse it will be because her "crime" is considered severe enough to be punished in that manner. I believe that they will not execute her because they will accept her naivety as mitigating.

    What I think is wrong of the media (in this case the BBC) is to suggest that Iran is a country that executes people for no good reason. One of the principle defenses Iran has is that they have a Constitution and they have laws with remedies. We may not like them but that is irrelevant. People who enter Iran must abide by their laws. Roxanna Siberi respected and honoured the Iranian ways of doing things - that can be gleaned from her many reports. What is missing from this case is the evidence that she may have been "used" by sectors of the western press. I have deliberately used the word "conduit" earlier. That situation could most certainly be misconstrued by Iran or indeed any other country.

    And to answer the comment about "spying" - the crime is in the eyes of Iran, not the US or the UK. That would be the case in any western country you care to name.

  • Comment number 27.


    "Iran will not..."

    You know that as fact or is it just your opinion that they will not?...

  • Comment number 28.

    Iran should turn the page and follow ethical codes of civilised behaviour. Throttling freedom of the press and subjecting journalists to barbaric treatment will only bring the Iranian government further condemnation. Why is the Iranian government determined to defy world opinion while world leaders continue to send conciliatoty signals? It is high time the Iranian leadership recognises the folly of its ways; better late than never!

  • Comment number 29.


    "Iran should turn the page and follow ethical codes of civilised behaviour"

    Half the problem is that sort of comment, ask many Iranians (or followers of the Muslim faith) and they will say they are following ethical codes of civilised behaviour!...

  • Comment number 30.


    Everything here is opinion because that is all comment can be. Do you have anything useful for me to discuss with you or are you just going out of your way to be petty?

  • Comment number 31.


    Perhaps if the western media were completely objective then Iran may choose to listen. I would suggest that you check the ownership (and thereby influences) of the US news media whose signatures were appended to the original petition (which is part of the first blog). You may deduce from that whatever you will about the BBC (who also signed).

    Iran and the US are sworn enemies. The US are not sending conciliatory signals because they want to be friends - the US has a problem with the Nabucco pipeline. The US want to barter with Iran much to the chagrin of Israel who appear not to be having any of it. An interesting situation where objectivity and subjectivity are at odds.

  • Comment number 32.

    When we are talking about "ethical codes" then who are we saying has agreed the standards of acceptable behaviours and how do we ensure that standards are followed? The US still executes many people. Their execution techniques have followed a number of quite brutal methods. Members of the EU have also used decapitation and other methods.

    The US President has recently spoken on CIA treatment of suspects without indicating that there will be criminal prosecution of those involved despite the breaches of "International ethical codes". When it comes to the creation of high standards those who preach sanctimony must first set and be examples to others.

    If we are suggesting that there should be a Bill of Rights for every person on this Planet then that must be endorsed by every nation. That Bill of Rights must then be governed by an appropriate and neutral global organisation with executive power over all others. We are a million light years from that kind of situation. We have a greater chance that ET will return with a considerable number of "his" friends.

  • Comment number 33.

    In reply to comments made @ #30

    "Do you have anything useful for me to discuss with you"

    Talk about the pot trying to call the kettle black!

    When you start discussing the issues rather than just having (in my opinion) rants against those who you do not agree with (in this case Iran, the BBC and now me) then there will be something to debate, until then I will carry on pointing out the weakness of those 'rants'...

  • Comment number 34.

    Its really very terrifying..
    This type of activities are becoming common these days..
    Embassy there should try every attempt to free her.


  • Comment number 35.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 36.

    #33 So more succinctly put the answers to my questions were No and Yes.

  • Comment number 37.


    Quite correct, no you are not discussing the issues railed in the original blog and yes you are just having a rant against Iran, the BBC and now me.

    As I said, when you start to discuss the issues raised in the original blog I will be happy to debate the issues with you but all the time you are just having rather (in my opinion) silly rants against those who do not share your own views as to how Iran should be treated by the international community I will carry on pointing out the weakness of those rants - don't worry, it's not personal, I did the same in reply to comments made @ #28 too...

  • Comment number 38.


    Quite frankly have YOU offered anything constructive to this blog at all? In the first case you "rant" against the BBC (#1); then you "rant" against #6; then you have a "rant" at #9; then #10;then #16; and then 5 more "rants" - total entries 10 or over 25% of the total entries on a blog you first stated "shouldn't be here" (paraphrased)

    But then of course you are NOT ranting are you? You are simply showing how "silly" other people are.... is that correct?

  • Comment number 39.


    "Quite frankly have YOU offered anything constructive to this blog at all?"

    Unlike you, yes!

  • Comment number 40.


    Please remind me just what your "constructive comments" are, and why they stand apart from my entries which, I humbly admit, are the best I can do?

  • Comment number 41.


    All of them, try reading them!

  • Comment number 42.

    Someone earlier implied a link between Ms Saberi's arrest, and the upcoming Iranian elections. And yet the BBC's Jon Leyne in Tehran has claimed that "public awareness of Ms Saberi's situation is low in Iran, where local media do not seem to have reported her arrest or trial in any way" Can this arrest (and now sentencing) really be dismissed as an act of electoral populism?

    #38 redaer_tolb wrote:
    "Quite frankly have YOU offered anything constructive to this blog at all?"

    Well I, for one, pointed out a couple of posts of Boilerplated that I considered constructive.

  • Comment number 43.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 44.

    I am sadden that Roxana Saberi was sentenced to 8 years in prison...Following a trial that was in secret....

    At least she was not sentenced to death....

    -Dennis Junior

  • Comment number 45.

    So the sophistry of the BBC has now been exposed. It is always wrong to attempt to misinform or mislead. The "War on Terror", to which the BBC has paid lip service since Hutton, is a dangerous and manipulative psychological game being played out by dangerous people some of whom are "free" to sit behind a keyboard and do their highly paid best to support one pathological killer whilst damning the others.

    Ask your readers to look at your opening piece Mr Williams and hang your head in shame for being economical with the truth. Even now the BBC is carrying misinformation about this case unlike other news feeds that are atleast trying to be neutral. "Miss Saberi was coerced into admitting the charges against her" (from a BBC bulletin) is far from neutral reporting. At least five other outlets have put it a little differently. "Ms Saberi claims she was told that if she admitted to the charges she would be freed by the Iranian authorities." If that indeed happened then Iran is still being true to its word.

    Ms Saberi is gifted academically but that is no great qualification for entering either politics or journalism.

  • Comment number 46.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 47.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 48.


    "At least she was not sentenced to death...."

    Yes, but that doesn't mean that no harm can now happen.

    re comments made @ #45

    Just because some other media outlets allow such comments it doesn't (and should not) mean that the BBC should follow their example. As I suggested in comment #1, I'm surprised this blog was even published, there is a fine line to be drawn by those of us in the 'free-world', when such free speech could result in unwelcome interpretation by those who control the destinies of others were the right of free speech is restricted or non-existent...

  • Comment number 49.


    In making the comment "...yet the BBC's Jon Leyne in Tehran has claimed that public awareness of Ms Saberi's situation is low in Iran..." you point up the problem of ambiguous wording. Would anyone in Iran necessarily need to be aware of how important Ms Saberi's position appears to be to the western media even if the story has received copious cover?

    There is a recently added piece to the original blog on Ms Saberi that does reflect something of Iranian life and the position that women enjoy. I am not for one minute suggesting that everything is rosy, for I know that that is far from the case, but this item does point up the more positive elements in Iranian society. Ms Saberi, to her credit, also made positive noises about Iranian life in many of her reports and it saddens me that she may have been misused by elements of the western media. If her imprisonment were not bad enough the loss of her attempts to balance some of the more misleading news output from Iran will be sorely missed.

    However, I do not begin to believe that this situation is concluded. I would comment further but I feel it would be wasted given earlier comments that have been made about my input.

  • Comment number 50.

    Could harm still come to Ms Saberi?

    Given that she is mortal then harm could happen had she not been arrested and imprisoned, or even if she were now back home in Fargo. Amongst the more perceptive (if mischievous) comments in the HYS item on Iran is one that simply says "No invasion or attack for eight years".

    I am very concerned that the west is getting its wires crossed in its "War on Terror". It is very dangerous that freedoms are being steadily and worryingly eroded and suggestions that "free speech" should be curtailed least it should "provoke" an enemy is unsupportable unless you are a diplomat. That technique was used in Soviet Russia and in Germany before and during the time of two world wars and it certainly cost more lives than it ever saved.

    Bush stated "you are for us or against us" and you cannot be more totalitarian than that. Obama is at least more pragmatic and I hope that he does establish a meaningful dialogue with Iran with positive outcomes for all concerned, including Ms Saberi.

  • Comment number 51.


    There is a difference between the wise use of ones 'freedom of speech' and the states use of censorship...

  • Comment number 52.


    When it comes to freedom of speech there is no definition of "wise use" - what is wisdom to you may be considered very foolish to others. Indeed had Ms Saberi been "wiser" in her choice of "friends" this blog may not have been necessary. It is very remiss to believe that we have been told everything we need to know and that because "freedom of speech" has become very tenuous in our own backyards we are aiming for the same gutter we criticise others for having. Perhaps if we concentrated on that instead of a regime we pillory aimlessly and deceitfully we may all have a better life and Ms Saberi would not be in prison.

  • Comment number 53.


    "When it comes to freedom of speech there is no definition of "wise use" - what is wisdom to you may be considered very foolish to others."

    Exactly! It's one thing to have the right to 'free speech' but one has no right to use that freedom to (possibly) make someone else's rights less. As the saying went (in the UK at least) during World War Two - 'Careless words costs lives' - one persons freedom of speech could well become someone else's death sentence. What I was saying is, you can still have freedom of speech even though you might need to consider your words carefully, having to do so is not the same as censorship.

  • Comment number 54.

    "Careless words" was actually a device used as much to entice "spies" into transferring false information as it ever was to stop casual talk (which is actually impossible). By implying that a worker or soldier may "know something" of value you create an interesting distraction from more important things elsewhere. In fact the whole operation of "intelligence" is rich in the passage of false information or attention. Remember all the seedy, sleazy spy scandals and set ups? That is a great strength of the "freedom of speech" which is lost to regimes who limit such freedom.

    We know that the monitoring systems of most countries is very sophisticated and a great deal of care is used in focusing attention not just on incoming messages but on producing outgoing "intelligence nonsense".

    Your point may have an interesting bearing on how Ms Saberi became a focus for Iranian intelligence and I think that is something that has been suggested already. Was she a "false flag"? It isn't beyond the bounds of possibility.

  • Comment number 55.


    It is pointless attempting debate with zealots, I would suggest that you just ignore the bitter and twisted comments being made by what is obviously A, the same poster using different aliases & B) a person who cares less about the truth and more about spreading misinformation.

    Luckily for them the BBC is based in the UK where democratic principles apply, which is a lot less then can be said of Iran.

  • Comment number 56.


    Democracy? That would mean a government voted in by 22% of the electorate would it?

    Zealots? It would be nice if I were that enthusiastic and energetic. Perhaps when I was very much younger but sadly, perhaps gladly, no more. But I will not stand for injustice nor those who perpetuate deceits. The BBC could do with a few zealots to kick its butt.

    Aliases? So we are not asked to invent a "user name" when we sign up to the BBC? Would you prefer that real names appeared here? Or is it always better to keep people guessing?

    And what do we really know of Iran? Only what we need to be told and nothing else. Unless we go out of our way to find it we will never know the truth. One thing is for sure sadly you will not find it these days on the BBC.

    We should all be seekers of the truth rather than being so darned lazy that we do not really care! It is much, much easier to blame big, bad Iran. Ms Saberi deserves so much better than being a pawn in a game that is as dirty as they come.

  • Comment number 57.

    Iran as a Nation..a Powerful Nation...has all the Right to Question & Sentence if found Guilty any individual trying to Spy. This does not exclude American Citizons.If the USA could pick every Tom, Dick & Harry from Afghanistan for staying in that Country..perhaps at the Wrong Time..Iran has all the Right to Question & detain a US Citizon Coz the
    US doesn not seem to have a "clean record".

  • Comment number 58.

    "In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies." --- Winston Churchill

    Perhaps those who doubt the dirty tricks brigade really have found their utopia a little prematurely.


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