Washington Babylon — November 23, 2009, 10:40 am

Not Funny: Reporter detained in Iran for ties to the Daily Show

From Newsweek(via Laura Rozen):

I saw the flicker of a laptop monitor under my blindfold. Then I heard someone speaking. It was a recording of another prisoner’s confession. “It’s not that one,” said the second interrogator. “It’s the one marked ‘Spy in coffee shop.’ ” Mr. Rosewater [the interrogator] fumbled with the computer. The other man stepped in to change the DVD. And then I heard the voice of Jon Stewart on The Daily Show.

Only a few weeks earlier, hundreds of foreign reporters had been allowed into the country in the run-up to the election. Among them was Jason Jones, a “correspondent” for Stewart’s satirical news program. Jason interviewed me in a Tehran coffee shop, pretending to be a thick-skulled American. He dressed like some character out of a B movie about mercenaries in the Middle East—with a checkered Palestinian kaffiyeh around his neck and dark sunglasses. The “interview” was very short. Jason asked me why Iran was evil. I answered that Iran was not evil. I added that, as a matter of fact, Iran and America shared many enemies and interests in common. But the interrogators weren’t interested in what I was saying. They were fixated on Jason.

“Why is this American dressed like a spy, Mr. Bahari?” asked the new man.

“He is pretending to be a spy. It’s part of a comedy show,” I answered.

“Tell the truth!” Mr. Rosewater shouted. “What is so funny about sitting in a coffee shop with a kaffiyeh and sunglasses?”

“It’s just a joke. Nothing serious. It’s stupid.” I was getting worried. “I hope you are not suggesting that he is a real spy.”

“Can you tell us why an American journalist pretending to be a spy has chosen you to interview?” asked the man with the creases. “We know from your contacts and background that you told them who to interview for their program.” The other Iranians interviewed in Jason’s report—a former vice president and a former foreign minister—had been arrested a week before me as part of the IRGC’s sweeping crackdown. “It’s just comedy,” I said, feeling weak.

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