Iran Human RightsIran confirms detention of US journalist

Iran confirms detention of US journalist


ImageAFP: Iran confirmed on Tuesday it was holding a freelance US journalist with Iranian nationality in a Tehran prison but did not reveal the charges.

ImageTEHRAN (AFP) — Iran confirmed on Tuesday it was holding a freelance US journalist with Iranian nationality in a Tehran prison but did not reveal the charges.

"The arrest (of Roxana Saberi) took place on a writ issued by the revolutionary court," judiciary spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi told reporters.

"I do not know exactly what the accusations are," Jamshidi said, adding that Saberi, 31, is being detained in Tehran's Evin prison.

Iran, which does not recognise dual nationality, has detained several US-Iranians in recent years.

The latest arrest comes after the new US administration of President Barak Obama held open the door to possible dialogue with Tehran after almost three decades of severed ties.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi said on Monday that Saberi was working "illegally" in the country after her press card was revoked in 2006. He did not however confirm or deny her arrest.

American media, citing Saberi's father, reported last week that the US-born journalist was arrested in late January on charges of buying alcohol, which is prohibited in the Islamic republic.

The United States said on Monday it has asked Switzerland, which represents US interests in Tehran, to press Iran for details about Saberi's detention.

"Her status is unclear at the moment," US State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid told reporters in Washington.

"We have engaged…. our protecting power, Switzerland, in contacting the Iranian authorities to try and locate Ms Saberi and find out exactly what is the case," he added.

"The State Department has been in touch with her family, and we're working with them, offering them what assistance that we can. At the moment, we don't have details back yet from our request through the Swiss," Duguid said.

Saberi's father Reza Saberi, an Iranian, told US-based National Public Radio she had informed him on February 10 of her detention after calling him from "an unknown place."

"She said that she had bought a bottle of wine and the person that sold it had reported it and then they came and arrested her," Reza Saberi was quoted by NPR as saying.

Saberi, who has reported for NPR, the BBC and Fox News, has been living in Iran for six years, both working as a journalist and pursuing a master's degree in Iranian studies and international relations.

She was also writing a book about Iran, NPR reported, adding that her father said she was planning to move back to the United States later this year.

In May 2007, US-Iranian academicians Haleh Esfandiari and Kian Tajbakhsh along with California-based peace activist Ali Shakeri were arrested and held for more than 100 days on suspicion of causing harm to national security.

US-Iranian journalist Parnaz Azima had her passport confiscated in January 2007 for eight months after she arrived in Iran on a private visit.

She avoided jail by paying bail of around 550,000 dollars and subsequently left the country.

Former FBI agent Robert Levinson has been missing for nearly two years since vanishing on the Iranian island of Kish in the Gulf.

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