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US frees detained journalist working for Iran's Press TV

US-born journalist Marzieh Hashemi released after being held for 10 days in Washington as a material witness in undisclosed federal probe
Press TV said that Hashemi had gone to the US to visit her terminally ill brother (AFP)

A US-born journalist for Iran's state-run Press TV has been released after being held for 10 days in Washington as a material witness in an undisclosed US federal investigation, the English-language news channel reported on Thursday.

"Marzieh Hashemi has been released from her detention without charge and is with her family in Washington DC," Press TV said, quoting a statement issued by the family soon after she was freed on Wednesday.

"They still have serious grievances and they want assurances that this won't happen to any Muslim – or any other person – ever again."

Hashemi will stay in Washington for a protest over her detention on Friday and she urged protesters in cities across the world to stick to their plans for the demonstration, Press TV said in a statement.

Hashemi, 59, was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) at St Louis Lambert International Airport on 13 January and transferred to a detention centre in Washington, where she was held for two days before managing to contact her family, Press TV said.

The Iranian network 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.

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

On Tuesday, Iran's foreign ministry had summoned the Swiss ambassador to Tehran to demand Hashemi's release.

The Swiss embassy in Tehran handles US interests in Iran after the two countries broke off relations following the 1979 Islamic revolution.

'Flight risk'

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

She received Iranian citizenship after marrying an Iranian.

Several Iranian dual nationals from Austria, Britain, Canada, France and the US have been detained in the past few years in Iran on charges such as espionage and collaborating with hostile governments.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted on Monday that the US needed to elaborate on its accusations against Hashemi.

"The US govt needs to explain how Marzieh Hashemi - a journalist and grandmother - is such a flight risk that she must be incarcerated until she finishes her testimony to a grand jury," he wrote.

"50 years after MLK assassination, US still violates the civil rights of black men and women."

There has been tension between Tehran and the Washington since US President Donald Trump's decision last May to pull out of an international nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions on Iran.