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Saberi's father says days ahead critical

Roxana Saberi

FARGO - The next three days will be critical in trying to secure the release of Fargo journalist Roxana Saberi from an Iranian prison, her father said Sunday.

Reza Saberi said the family's lawyer will try to find out what Iranian authorities have decided in his daughter's case. If there is no action, Saberi said his daughter - who has already been in prison for nearly six weeks - may be held through the celebration of the Iranian New Year of Norouz. The holiday begins on the first day of spring.

"We hope we can do something. These three days are very important. Otherwise our daughter will be sitting in the prison another two weeks," Saberi said.

Saberi said he talked with North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan on Saturday. Dorgan said he would talk again with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about the case, Saberi said.

The family is also trying to bring diplomatic pressure to bear through the Japanese Embassy.

"Roxana's mother is from Japan, and the Japanese have very good relations with Iran. We think that will be an effective step to take," Saberi said.

Roxana Saberi, 31, a freelance journalist, was imprisoned after Iranian authorities said she was arrested for working illegally after her press pass was revoked in 2006.

She graduated from Fargo North High School and Concordia College. She has contributed extensively to National Public Radio, BBC and Feature Story News.

Saberi said there have been allegations made about his daughter, "but they haven't found any wrongdoing."

She has been able to contact the family's lawyer, Saberi said. However, he hasn't heard her voice since a two-minute phone conversation about 1:30 a.m. last Monday.

"We are doing anything we can to see if we can release our daughter," he said.

Several groups have taken up Roxana Saberi's cause.

Human Rights Watch, an organization dedicated to defending and protecting human rights, has called on Iranian authorities to release her.

Top executives of NPR, ABC, BBC, Fox, the Wall Street Journal, PBS and Feature Story News, have asked the Iranian government to let human rights groups contact her to determine her health and well-being and to gauge the conditions under which she's being held. They also asked that the specific charges against Roxana Saberi be made public.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists delivered a petition with more than 10,000 signatures to Iranian officials at the United Nations requesting that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad intervene in Saberi's case.