Friday, 10 April, 2009

Dad in Iran till daughter free


TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — The father of an American journalist charged by Iran with espionage called on Iran Thursday to free her and said in an exclusive interview with Associated Press Television News that he will not leave the country until she's released.

"I demand them to release my daughter as soon as possible so that she can return to her normal life and continue her job," Reza Saberi said. "I will stay here until she is freed."

Roxana Saberi has been living for the last six years in Iran, working as a reporter for such organizations as National Public Radio and the British Broadcasting Corp. The 31-year-old freelance reporter was arrested in late January.

A judge announced Wednesday that she had been charged with spying for the United States, a far more serious development than earlier statements by Iranian officials that she had been arrested for working without press credentials — and her own assertion in a phone call to her father that she was arrested after buying a bottle of wine.

An investigative judge involved in the case told Iranian state TV that Saberi was passing classified information to U.S. intelligence services.

"Under the cover of a journalist, she visited government buildings, established contacts with some of the employees, gathered classified information and sent it to the U.S. intelligence services," said the judge, who under security rules was identified only by his surname, Heidarifard.

"Her activities were discovered by the counter-espionage department of the Intelligence Ministry," Heidarifard said.

Reza Saberi said he and his wife recently visited his daughter in Evin prison where she's being held.

"We were allowed to visit her for about twenty minutes. We talked to her. She was spiritually better than before. However, she was physically extremely thin and weak but she said she eats now and is going to exercise. This gave us the hope that she will become better," Reza Saberi said.

Saberi will stand trial next week, the judge said, though he did not specify which day.

The journalist grew up in Fargo, North Dakota and is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Iran.

"She is certainly an American national. She also came to Iran and received an Iranian ID card and passport and according to Iranian law, she is Iranian too. She is actually a dual citizen," her father said.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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