Iran FM says journalist arrest in U.S. 'tramples free speech'

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TEHRAN -Press TV anchor Marzieh Hashemi was arrested in the usa for her advocacy of African Americans, says a petition on under the headline "FREE MARZIEH HASHEMI - American Citizen- Journalist". crimes.

The American-born Iran state TV broadcaster said to be held by the Federal Bureau of Investigation reportedly appeared in court Friday in Washington, D.C.

Press TV said Marzieh Hashemi's court appearance is Friday.

Howell's order said Hashemi had been arrested on a material witness warrant issued by a district court judge in Washington and she had been appointed an attorney.

Marzieh Hashemi has appeared twice before a United States district judge in Washington, DC and has been appointed an attorney.

Franklin, the order states, is expected to be released immediately following the completion of her testimony before a federal grand jury.

Press TV said Hashemi was due to appear before a grand jury on January 23.

"We want more clear answers", Hossein Hashemi said in a separate interview with Press TV. She was traveling to the visit a family member diagnosed with cancer, according to Press TV.

Hashemi, 59, is a United States citizen and was born Melanie Franklin.

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The FBI has declined to comment.

It is highly unusual to hold someone as a material witness and it remains unclear what the grand jury is investigating. She hasn't been charged with a crime.

"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. 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.

A US government source told Reuters it appeared that the grand jury was examining whether Press TV is a propaganda outlet that failed to register with the Justice Department as an agent of a foreign government. She was then taken to Washington, according to her elder son, Hossein Hashemi.

This was also confirmed by her son to the Associated Press. However, the report further cited a 2005 joint analysis conducted by Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union showing that the U.S. government had held 70 men as potential material witnesses to that time and almost half of whom were never called to testify.

Hashemi married an Iranian man and converted to Islam.

Suzanne Nossel, CEO of the PEN America group promoting literature and free expression, says she is concerned Ms. Hashemi might have been targeted for her documentary for political reasons.

It did not disclose further details of the case, which has added to tensions between the Iranian and US governments over the USA withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, the reimposition of harsh USA sanctions, and the detention of Iranian-American dual nationals by Iran.