(AFP) – Mar 19, 2009
CHICAGO (AFP) — A US journalist who was supposed to have been freed from an Iranian jail has been reduced to a "dangerous" mental state by her continued imprisonment, her family said Thursday.
"She is under great psychological pressure and her condition seems to be dangerous now," Reza and Akiko Saberi wrote in an open letter begging Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to release their daughter.
"We are very worried about her health and fear that something tragic may happen to her."
On March 9, the ISNA news agency reported that Hassan Haddad, Tehran's deputy prosecutor for security matters, said Roxana Saberi, 31, 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," her father Reza Saberi said in a telephone interview.
"They didn't tell the lawyer what they're going to do next."
The US-born journalist with dual Iranian nationality was sobbing when she was visited Wednesday by her lawyer, her father said.
"I know my daughter. She's very sensitive. To keep her in confinement for 47 days and not tell her what will happen -- it's very hard on her," said Saberi, who now lives in North Dakota after immigrating from Iran decades ago.
"Physically there doesn't seem to be any harm but her mentality has been very poor."
Saberi has only spoken to his daughter once since her January arrest on what he initially thought to be charges of buying alcohol, which is prohibited in the Islamic republic.
He later came to believe she was arrested for her work as a reporter.
The Iranian foreign ministry said in February that Saberi was working "illegally" in the country after her press card was revoked in 2006.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, her father said, and was planning to move back to the United States later this year.
Iran, which does not recognize dual nationality and has had no ties with the United States for three decades, has detained several Iranian-Americans, including academics, in recent years.
Former FBI agent Robert Levinson has been missing for two years since vanishing on the Gulf island of Kish. On March 8 the US State Department reiterated its call for Iran to help locate him, but has said no information has been forthcoming from Tehran on the case.
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