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Iran summons Swiss ambassador over Press TV anchor's detention in US

Press TV news anchor Marzieh Hashemi (file photo)

Iran has summoned the Swiss ambassador to Tehran to protest the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)'s "illegal" detention of Press TV news anchor Marzieh Hashemi, who had traveled to the United States to visit her family.

In a meeting on Tuesday with the Swiss envoy, director general for the Americas at Iran’s Foreign Ministry expressed the Islamic Republic's strong protest over the prolongation of the Iranian citizen's imprisonment, Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said.

He added that the Iranian Foreign Ministry's official handed over an official note to the Swiss ambassador in protest at the US' detention and "inhumane and discriminatory" behavior toward the Press TV journalist, and asked for her "immediate and unconditional" release.

Hashemi, a 59-year-old American-born Muslim convert who has been living in Iran for years, was detained at St. Louis Lambert International Airport in Missouri last Sunday while she was in the US to visit her ill brother and other family members.

She was transferred to a detention facility in Washington, DC, where she was forced to remove her hijab and only offered food not permissible under her Islamic values.

After days of silence, the US administration confirmed on Friday that it was holding Hashemi in jail as a “material witness” in an unspecified case, and that she would be released after she testified before a grand jury. She appeared in court on Friday for the second time for a hearing session, and is slated to appear before a grand jury for a third time on Wednesday, January 23.

The Iranian spokesperson further emphasized that the FBI's behavior towards Hashemi and the "questionable silence of the American officials" over the issue run counter to all international commitments of the US and are "a blatant violation of human rights."

Qassemi said the US government must be held accountable for such "discriminatory measures" and the violation of Hashemi's rights.

The Swiss envoy said he would immediately notify the US Department of State and report back the results to Iran’s Foreign Ministry.

In the absence of diplomatic or consular relations between Tehran and Washington since 1980, the Swiss government, acting through its embassy in Tehran, represents the US interests in Iran.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Monday that the detention of the Press TV anchorwoman proves the United States is still violating the rights of black people.

"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," Zarif said in a post on his official Twitter account.

Iran's Vice Presidency for Women and Family Affairs on Sunday also denounced the detention of the Press TV journalist.

Issuing a statement, the vice presidency expressed its support for the inalienable humanitarian rights of the female Muslim journalist, calling on Iranian officials to do their best for Hashemi's release.

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