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Published March 06, 2009, 12:00 AM

Clinton urges Saberi’s release

Family’s attorney plans to visit Fargoan in Iran jail
Two new developments raised hopes that the parents of Fargo journalist Roxana Saberi will soon hear from their daughter.

By: Kelly Smith, INFORUM

Family’s attorney plans to visit Fargoan in Iran jail
Two new developments raised hopes that the parents of Fargo journalist Roxana Saberi will soon hear from their daughter.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday called for Iran to release Saberi, who Iranian authorities say has been detained about a month for allegedly working without press credentials.

Reza Saberi, Roxana’s father, also said on Thursday that the family’s Iranian attorney in Tehran plans to visit his daughter’s jail on Saturday.

“I think the case is advancing in the right direction,” Reza Saberi said from the family’s north Fargo home. “All this – the momentum should be kept on.”

Clinton, who was asked about the Saberi case at a news conference Thursday in Brussels, said the State Department is working through Swiss officials to request information about Roxana Saberi’s health, whereabouts and the nature of the charges she faces, The Associated Press reported.

Clinton said she is awaiting Iran’s response, but added that the only acceptable outcome was for Saberi to be released and allowed to return to her family, The AP reported.

Saberi and his wife are optimistic their lawyer will bring them one step closer to hearing their daughter’s voice.

“He’s a lawyer, so we hope that they will allow him to see her,” Saberi said. “He will be able to talk to her and see what the real story is and what they’re going to do.”

The Saberis haven’t heard from their 31-year-old daughter in more than a month. The last call from her was Feb. 10, when she told them she was arrested for buying a bottle of wine – a charge her parents reject.

Since disclosing her story to the nation last week, people worldwide have voiced their support for the detained freelance journalist – from Clinton to complete strangers on a Facebook petition.

The petition, which was started by The Committee to Protect Journalists, was expected to be presented to Iranian U.N. officials Thursday, but the group decided to hold off until Monday so it could gather more signatures, a spokeswoman said.

The Facebook petition has gathered more than 5,000 signatures from across the world. Organizers hope to have 10,000 signatures by Monday.

The New York-based group’s petition calls for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to use his power to ensure Saberi receives due process and access to an attorney.

Go to www.inforum.com to click on a link to the petition.

The Saberis are overwhelmed by the worldwide outpouring of support for their daughter.

“The activity to save Roxana is now global – everywhere they are now working on it,” her father said. “Of course, things in Iran move slowly. But I think one day we’ll see Roxana.”

Saberi, who graduated from Fargo North High School and Concordia College, has been detained in Iran for more than a month. The former Miss North Dakota had been working in Tehran for six years, reporting for news organizations such as National Public Radio and the BBC.

Reza Saberi said Thursday that she has both U.S. and Iranian passports – although both governments don’t recognize citizenship in the other country.

“First of all, she’s American,” her Iran-born father said. “That (her Iranian citizenship) was just a temporary thing.”

When Saberi’s press pass was revoked by the Iranian government in 2006, the freelance journalist continued reporting for NPR through 2007.

NPR learned about their former contributor’s detainment on Feb. 26, but hasn’t done an updated story on Saberi since Sunday.

“They are on top of the matter,” her father said. “They call me every day. They bring me up to date on what is happening.”

Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple contributed to this report

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kelly Smith at (701) 241-5515