Son: Jailed Iranian TV anchor to appear before US grand jury

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WASHINGTON (AP) – A prominent American-born anchorwoman on Iranian state television, who has been jailed in the U.S., will appear Friday before a federal grand jury, her son said.

Marzieh Hashemi will be taken to the federal courthouse in Washington, her son Hossein Hashemi told The Associated Press. He has said she’s been jailed as a material witness, though it’s unclear for which case. She hasn’t been charged with a crime.

Marzieh Hashemi, who worked for the Press TV network’s English-language service, was detained by federal agents on Sunday in St. Louis, where she had filmed a Black Lives Matter documentary after visiting relatives in the New Orleans area, her son said. She was then transported to Washington and has remained behind bars since then.

Hashemi, 59, is a U.S. citizen and was born Melanie Franklin. She lives in Tehran and comes back to the United States about once a year to see her family, usually scheduling documentary work in the U.S., her son said.

Federal law allows judges to order witnesses to be arrested and detained if the government can prove that their testimony has extraordinary value for a criminal case and that they would be a flight risk and unlikely to respond to a subpoena. The statute generally requires those witnesses to be promptly released once they are deposed.

Hossein Hashemi said he, his brother and his sister also have been subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury. Asked whether his mother had been involved in any criminal activity or knew anyone who might be implicated in a crime, Hashemi said, “We don’t have any information along those lines.”

The FBI has declined to comment.

Marzieh Hashemi’s detention comes amid heightened tensions between Iran and the U.S. after President Donald Trump withdrew America from a nuclear deal. Iran also faces increasing criticism of its own arrests of dual citizens and other people with Western ties.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement early Friday expressing concern over Marzieh Hashemi’s case and asked the Justice Department to disclose the reason for her arrest. The group’s statement noted that “Iran routinely jails journalists.”

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Balsamo reported from New York.

This undated photo provided by Iranian state television’s English-language service, Press TV, shows its American-born news anchor Marzieh Hashemi. On Friday, Jan. 18, 2019, Iran’s state-run English-language channel reported that its American anchorwoman detained in the U.S. will appear in court in Washington. Press TV said Marzieh Hashemi’s court appearance is Friday. (Press TV via AP)
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