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IRANIANS DEMAND THE RELEASE OF PRESS TV REPORTER M

DIPLOMACY

Iran summons Swiss envoy over US arrest of journalist

Iran's foreign ministry on Tuesday summoned the Swiss ambassador to Tehran to demand the unconditional and immediate release of a state television journalist detained in the United States.

Iran summons Swiss envoy over US arrest of journalist

Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said a note of complaint was issued to the ambassador for Switzerland over the “inhuman and discriminatory” detention of Iranian citizen and Press TV reporter Marzieh Hashemi.

The Swiss embassy in Tehran handles US interests in the Islamic republic after the two countries broke off relations following the 1979 Islamic revolution.

“Her immediate and unconditional release was demanded” at the meeting with the ambassador, Ghasemi added.

US-born Hashemi, who works for Iran's English-language Press TV, was arrested on arrival at St Louis Lambert International Airport on January 13th, according to family and friends cited by Press TV.

Hashemi, a Muslim convert who changed her name from Melanie Franklin, had reportedly been visiting her ill brother and other family members.

A US court on Friday confirmed the arrest, saying her testimony was required over an unspecified case but that she was not accused of a crime.

At a hearing in Washington, a judge ordered the partial unsealing of an order on Hashemi.

The court said Hashemi was arrested on “a material arrest warrant” and would be let go after she gave testimony to a grand jury investigating unspecified “violations of US criminal law”.

Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Thursday described the detention as a “political action” by the United States that “tramples on freedom of speech” and demanded she be set free.

Zarif said that since Hashemi was married to an Iranian she is considered as an Iranian national and “it is our duty to defend our citizens”.

DIPLOMACY

Swiss summon Sri Lankan envoy over worker’s abduction

Switzerland has summoned Sri Lanka's ambassador and asked to see the "purported evidence" that Colombo says casts doubt on claims by a Swiss embassy staff member that she was abducted.

Swiss summon Sri Lankan envoy over worker's abduction

Envoy Karunasena Hettiarachchi, who is based in Berlin, met Switzerland's State Secretary Pascale Baeriswyl in Bern on Monday, a statement said. 

The diplomatic spat began when a senior Sri Lanka police officer sought asylum in Switzerland after investigating several cases involving members of the powerful Rajapaksa family — Gotabaya Rajapaksa currently serves as president.

The next day a local worker at the Swiss embassy in Colombo claimed she had been abducted and forced to hand over sensitive information —  reportedly including the names of Sri Lankans who had sought asylum in Switzerland.

According to the Swiss foreign ministry, the woman was “threatened by unidentified men” and forced “to disclose embassy-related information”.

On Sunday, Sri Lanka sought to raise doubts about the Swiss narrative, claiming ambassador Hanspeter Mock had been given “clear evidence” that the staff member's account did not add up. But in a statement issued late on Monday the Swiss foreign ministry indicated that such proof had not been shared.

The state secretary “asked Ambassador Hettiarachchi to explain the purported evidence against the events described by the embassy, which the Sri Lankan Ministry of Foreign Affairs had alluded to”, the statement said.

Meanwhile, Colombo Chief Magistrate Lanka Jayaratne has ordered the woman to make a statement to investigators by December 9 after police said they needed to interview her. The magistrate restricted her travel abroad until December 9.

The Swiss repeated that it supported Sri Lanka's desire to investigate the matter but reiterated that “the employee concerned still cannot be questioned on health grounds”.

The Sri Lankan government this week alerted airport immigration authorities to stop any police officer leaving the country without permission.

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