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ISNA: Iran to free US journalist within days

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7:05AM PST

TEHRAN (AFP) — Iran will soon release Roxana Saberi, a freelance US journalist with Iranian nationality, after more than a month in detention, the ISNA news agency reported on Friday.

Hassan Haddad, Tehran’s deputy prosecutor for security matters, said Saberi, 31, would be freed within a few days, ISNA said.

“The investigation has been carried out and she will be released within a few days,” Haddad said without giving further details.

The ISNA report comes a day after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that Iran was expected to be invited to a high-level conference on Afghanistan likely to be held by end of this month.

Her statement is the latest overture by the new US administration of President Barack Obama after Obama extended a diplomatic hand towards Iran soon after he took office in January.

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.

Last week the Iranian foreign ministry said Saberi was working “illegally” in the country after her press card was revoked in 2006.

Later Iran’s judiciary said she had been arrested on the orders of a revolutionary court, which handles security charges in Iran, and kept in Tehran’s Evin prison.

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

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

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

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 Gulf island of Kish.

Since Obama took office, Washington has been working on extending a diplomatic hand towards Tehran.

The two have had no diplomatic relations for three decades and relations worsened during the tenure of former US president George W. Bush largely over Tehran’s controversial nuclear programme.

Washington suspects that its atomic drive is a cover for ambitions to build a nuclear bomb, charges strongly denied by Tehran.

Written by Keith Kamisugi

March 6, 2009 at 8:08 am

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