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US officials arrest journalist who works for Iran's Press TV

Iran's foreign ministry demands immediate release of Marzieh Hashemi and condemns her alleged mistreatment
Press TV said that US officials banned Hashemi from wearing her hijab in prison (Screengrab)

US officials have arrested a journalist who works for the Iranian government-backed English-language channel Press TV. She is being held without charge, the broadcaster said on Wednesday.

No formal charges have been brought against her.

Marzieh Hashemi, described by Press TV as "US-born", has been living in Iran for years and is a Muslim convert, according to the broadcaster.

Formerly known as Melanie Franklin, she appears regularly on the channel as an anchor and documentary filmmaker.

Press TV 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 America 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. 

The FBI did not respond to requests for comment from MEE.

The Iranian outlet also alleged that Hashemi was taken to an FBI holding facility in Washington, but no detention facilities that hold federal prisoners confirmed they were holding the journalist, according to Al-Jazeera. 

Iran's foreign ministry condemned Hashemi's arrest and demanded her immediate release. 

"We condemn the illegal arrest of Marziyeh Hashemi, the reporter and presenter of Press TV, and the inhumane treatment of her in jail in Washington," spokesman Bahram Qasemi was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA.

Hashemi's arrest comes as tensions continue to mount between the US and Iran. 

On Tuesday, Iran launched a satellite that failed to reach orbit, despite warnings from the United States. 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the launch but did not confirm whether the US planned to levy new sanctions against Iran in response. 

During his whistle-stop tour of the Middle East, Pompeo reiterated the Trump administration's anti-Iran stance, calling on the Arab world to unite against Tehran's growing influence in the region.