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Swiss press Iran to visit jailed American

Published on 26/03/2009

WASHINGTON - The United States renewed its appeal to Iran Wednesday for the release of a US journalist who was held in jail there since late January, and called on Tehran to allow her consular access.

"We continue to urge, through the Swiss, the Iranian government to allow consular access to Roxana Saberi," said State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid at a press conference.

Iran’s judiciary said dual US-Iranian national Saberi was arrested on the orders of a revolutionary court, which handles security charges in Iran, and kept in Tehran’s Evin prison.

Saberi "had access to legal counsel, which is one of the things that we had been asking for in the early stages," said Duguid.

"But we now are pushing for, through the Swiss, consular access, which we feel is particularly necessary at this time."

Duguid said US officials were in "regular contact" with the Swiss, whose consulate represents US interests in Iran.

Saberi’s father met with State Department officials in Washington on Tuesday to express continued concern for his daughter’s detention.

Her parents, Reza and Akiko Saberi, revealed last week that the 31-year-old was being reduced to a "dangerous" mental state by her continued and seemingly open-ended imprisonment.

In an open letter to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, her parents said Saberi "is under great psychological pressure and her condition seems to be dangerous now."

US-born Saberi, who reported for National Public Radio, the BBC and Fox News, and was living in Iran for six years, was arrested in late January on charges of buying alcohol, which is prohibited in the Islamic republic.

The Iranian foreign ministry later said Saberi was working "illegally" in the country after her press card was cancelled in 2006.

On 9 March, the ISNA news agency reported that Hassan Haddad, Tehran’s deputy prosecutor for security matters, said Saberi would be freed "within a few days." But when the family’s lawyer attempted to make a bail payment, he was told that officials "cannot free her now."

Iran, which does not recognise dual nationality and had no ties with the United States for three decades, detained several Iranian-Americans, including academics, in recent years.

AFP / Expatica