Tue, Mar 03, 2009 - Page 7 News List

US journalist detained in Iran, father says

AP , FARGO, NORTH DAKOTA

A US journalist has been arrested in Iran, and her father said on Sunday she told him in a brief phone call she was detained after buying a bottle of wine.

Roxana Saberi, 31, has not been heard from since her last call on Feb. 10, her father Reza said on Sunday.

“We haven’t heard anything,” he said.

The family decided to go public, he said, “because we wanted to get some information.”

Officials in Iran have not publicly confirmed the arrest. A duty officer at the US State Department said on Sunday they were looking into a request for information on the case.

Human rights groups have repeatedly criticized Iran for arresting journalists and suppressing freedom of speech. The government has arrested several Iranian-Americans in the past few years, citing alleged attempts to overthrow its Islamic regime. The most high-profile case came in 2007, when Iran arrested four Iranian-Americans, including the academic Haleh Esfandiari. The four were imprisoned or had their passports confiscated for several months until they were released and allowed to return to the US.

Roxana Saberi is a freelance journalist who has reported for National Public Radio and other media and has lived in Iran for six years.

“She called from an unknown place and said she’s been kept in detention,” her father said of her last phone call.

He said she had already been detained 10 days by that point.

“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,” her father said on Sunday.

“We asked others and they said ‘there’s no detention for that.’ So that’s kind of an excuse,” he said.

Buying and selling alcohol is illegal in the Islamic republic.

A few minutes after that call, Reza Saberi said she phoned again and asked: “Please don’t do anything because they’ll release me in two days.”

That was the last her parents heard from her, and now the family is going public to try to find out what happened. Reza Saberi told reporters he did not know where his daughter was or what charges she faces.

“It’s been very tough,” he said on Sunday.

NPR said Iran revoked Saberi’s press credentials more than a year ago but apparently let her report short news stories. An NPR spokeswoman said on Sunday the latest information they had on Saberi was in the stories on their Web site.

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