The senator urged the United Nations to intervene with Tehran on behalf of Roxana Saberi, who grew up in Fargo.
By KEVIN DIAZ, BOB von STERNBERG and BILL McAULIFFE, Star Tribune
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., is urging the United Nations to intervene with the government of Iran to secure the immediate release of Roxana Saberi, an American journalist and former Miss North Dakota who grew up in Fargo, N.D., and graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn.
"I believe that the continued imprisonment of Ms. Saberi is unjustifiable and that the international community must make clear to the government of Iran that systematic oppression of free speech and political dissent will lead only to further isolation," Klobuchar wrote in a letter Monday to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Klobuchar said her office has also been in contact with the U.S. State Department about the matter.
Since 1979, the United States has not had direct diplomatic relations with Iran. A State Department spokesman said Monday that U.S. officials asked Swiss officials over the weekend to ask the Iranians for help in finding Saberi, but said he had not received a report back from them.
Saberi, 31, a freelance journalist, has not been heard from since her last call home Feb. 10, said her father, Reza, who lives in Fargo. She has lived in Iran for six years.
Saberi's father said the only updates he's received about his daughter have been from news service reports. But he hopes the intervention of the State Department will eventually lead to her release, he said.
"We haven't heard anything specific, but now that our senators are working on it for us, we're hoping the Department of State will begin a formal inquiry," he said.
Iranian cites 'illegal' activities
An Iranian official said Monday that Saberi was engaged in "illegal" activities because she continued working after the government revoked her press credentials in 2006.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hasan Qashqavi did not specify why Saberi's credentials were revoked and refused to say whether she was in prison.
"Her accreditation was over in 2006 after Iranian authorities revoked her press card," Qashqavi said. "Her activities since 2006 were completely illegal and unauthorized."
Saberi doesn't buy the explanation, saying Monday that because his daughter's credentials were revoked two years ago, she has not reported on any government activities. "She had no access," he said. "How could she go and report something important? It's a groundless charge."
On Sunday, he said family members "hope they tell us where they're holding her and what, if any, the charges are."
If the State Department can't get answers, Saberi said he'll go to Iran himself. "We are sure that she wouldn't do anything wrong and they are not allowing us to defend her legally," he said.
Officials in Iran have not publicly confirmed the arrest. Human rights groups have criticized Iran for arresting journalists and suppressing freedom of speech.
Saberi's father said that in her second-to-last phone call, which lasted about a minute, she told him she was arrested after buying a bottle of wine.
Buying and selling alcohol are illegal in Iran.
Qashqavi did not mention the bottle of wine at his news conference Monday.
Saberi graduated summa cum laude from Concordia with degrees in mass communication and French.
She then spent two years as a reporter for KVLY in Fargo. In 1997, she was Miss North Dakota.
Reza Saberi said his daughter had been determined to go to Iran.
"I was very worried and I was reluctant for her to go," he said. "She was very persistent about it."
Staff writer Aimee Blanchette and the Associated Press contributed to this report. email@example.com • 202-408-2753 firstname.lastname@example.org • 612-673-7184 email@example.com • 612-673-7646
March 3, 2009