Is Saberi caught in the middle?

Why was North Dakota native Roxana Saberi arrested in Iran? Ostensibly, it’s because she bought a bottle of wine, which is prohibited in the country.

But maybe this picture offers a clue. Maybe it’s part of a power struggle inside Iran.

That’s a picture of Saberi with former President Mohammad Khatami.

According to the New York Times “The Lede” blog, “Ms. Saberi’s arrest comes at a time of increasing pressure before presidential elections in June, during which at least two pro-reform candidates will be running against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. One of those candidates will be Mr. Khatami, whose reformist presidency preceded the conservative backlash that brought Mr. Ahmadinejad to power.

It suggests that Saberi may be caught in a power struggle between conservatives and reformists in the country.

Or it’s just Iran being Iran. She’s not the first female American journalist to get ensnared in the Iranian justice system.

On her ABC News blog today, reporter Martha Raddatz recounted her own arrest in Iran.

Last September, while on a trip to Tehran with my producer, Ely Brown, and my cameraman, Bartley Price, we were arrested by Iranian police for videotaping officers who were looking for women whose heads were not “properly” covered. Ely and I were both wearing a hijab, and we all had official Iranian press credentials. (I had sent in a picture of myself from a passport shop in the United States. When I picked up my press card in Tehran, the Iranians had “Photoshopped” in a head covering on my press card.)

The police loaded us into a van and had two other police vans escorting us through the city. They took Bart’s camera, our press cards, and most disturbing, they took our passports.

Raddatz says she hopes Saberi gets more help from her State Department than she did. Her family has hired a lawyer in Iran who hopes to see her tomorrow.

Her father will be interviewed this afternoon on MPR’s All Things Considered.

Update 4:59 p.m. – Here’s the extended interview.

He said he doesn’t think the fact her journalist credentials were revoked a few years ago was part of the reason for her arrest. “I don’t think it was a great concern for us because we knew she had no access to governmental offices after she lost her press pass,” he said. “If she wrote something that was common knowledge, it was public information.”

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