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Father says American journalist held; Iran says she lacked permit

  • Story Highlights
  • Roxana Saberi called and said she'd been arrested, jailed, her father says
  • Foreign Ministry: With revoked press card, she shouldn't have been reporting
  • From U.S., father says daughter had freelanced, was writing book on Iranian culture
  • Foreign, Interior ministries are tight-lipped about alleged arrest, detention
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TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- An American journalist reported by her father as being detained in Iran had been working there without a permit, Iran's Foreign Ministry said Monday.

Journalist Roxana Saberi, shown working on the outskirts of Tehran in 2004, hasn't been heard from in a month.

Journalist Roxana Saberi, shown working on the outskirts of Tehran in 2004, hasn't been heard from in a month.

"In fact, her press card was revoked," said Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hassan Qashqavi. "Without a permit, she should not have been engaged in news and information gathering in Iran."

Qashqavi did not confirm whether Roxana Saberi was in custody or provide details of her alleged arrest. In his weekly news conference, he said the matter is under the jurisdiction of Iran's judiciary.

Saberi's father, who lives in North Dakota, told CNN on Sunday that his daughter called him February 10 and said she'd been arrested 10 days earlier. He said the phone call was disconnected after two minutes but his daughter called back.

"She called and said she's in jail," Reza Saberi said. "She said she bought a bottle of wine last year and kept it to take to a friend for her birthday. She said authorities told her the person who sold her the wine turned her in." Video Watch Reza Saberi talk about his daughter »

Reza Saberi told CNN his daughter asked him not to do anything because she'd been told she'd be released in a few days.

"She was upset. My daughter is someone who can't sit still for an hour. She was very active."

Saberi said he hasn't heard from his daughter since.

He said his daughter had freelanced for National Public Radio and other news organizations and was writing a book about Iranian culture. He said she was almost finished and planned to return to the United States this month.

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Roxana Saberi's neighbor in Tehran, Nahid Nakhshineh, told CNN she last saw her a month ago. "She was a very good girl and well-behaved, but I always worried about her," Nakhshineh told CNN "I am praying for her every day."

When CNN contacted Iran's Interior Ministry for comment, a representative read an article about Saberi's alleged arrest over the phone. "I was told to read this if anyone called with questions about the arrest," the representative said.

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