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Detained journalist for Iran's Press TV to appear in US court: Report

Press TV says US-born Marziyeh Hashemi was detained by the FBI on unspecified charges and is due to appear in a Washington court on Friday
Hashemi had travelled to the US to visit her terminally ill brother, Press TV said (Screengrab)

A US journalist working for Iran's state television channel Press TV who Iran says was detained in Washington will appear in a US court on Friday, the channel reported on Friday.

Iran has called for the immediate release of TV anchor and documentary filmmaker Marziyeh Hashemi, whose employer, the English-language channel Press TV, said was arrested on Sunday by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) at St Louis Lambert International Airport.

"Marzieh Hashemi, detained by the FBI on unspecified charges, is due to appear in a Washington, DC, court on Friday," Press TV reported, without elaborating.

The broadcaster on Wednesday quoted Hashemi's son as saying that the 59-year-old journalist, who had been living in Iran for more than a decade, was detained as a "material witness" to a criminal case and no formal charges had been made against her.

The FBI has not commented on the case, the Reuters news agency reported.

US Federal law allows the government to arrest and detain a witness if it can prove that their testimony is material to a criminal proceeding and that it cannot guarantee their presence through a subpoena.

'Handcuffed and shackled'

According to Press TV, Hashemi was born Melanie Franklin in the US and changed her name after converting to Islam.

The broadcaster reported that Hashemi was arrested at St Louis Lambert International Airport on Sunday, and was only allowed to call her family two days after being detained.

"Her relatives were unable to contact her, and she was allowed to contact her daughter only two days after her arrest," Press TV reported.

"[Hashemi] told her daughter that she was handcuffed and shackled and was being treated like a criminal."

Press TV said that Hashemi had gone to the US to visit her terminally ill brother and also claimed that US officials had prevented her from wearing her hijab and had offered only pork, prohibited in Islam, as a meal.

Middle East Eye could not independently verify these claims. 

'Violation of freedom of speech'

Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif condemned the arrest as a "violation of freedom of speech and unacceptable".

"She is the wife of an Iranian citizen and we see it as our duty to defend the rights of our citizens," Zarif told Iran's Arabic-language state broadcaster Al-Alam news channel.

In a statement on Friday, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on the Justice Department to disclose the reason for Hashemi's arrest.

Tensions have been high between Tehran and Washington since US President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of an international nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions on Iran.

Several Iranian dual nationals from the US, Britain, Austria, Canada and France have been detained in the past years in Iran and are being kept behind bars on charges including espionage and collaborating with hostile governments.