04 March 2009

Ex-beauty queen working as journalist held in Iran for buying wine - dad

A former beauty queen who has been working as a journalist in Iran went missing after she was jailed for buying a bottle of wine, her desperate father said Sunday.

Roxana Saberi, 31, called her dad in Fargo, N.D., from an Iranian jail on Feb. 10 to tell him she'd been detained on Jan. 31. It's been almost three weeks since her call and he has no clue what happened to his daughter.

"We haven't heard anything," said Reza Saberi, who came forward hoping to bring attention to the case and find his missing daughter.

"She said that she had bought a bottle of wine and the person that sold it had reported it and then they came and arrested her."

Buying and selling alcohol is illegal in Iran.

Roxana Saberi, a U.S. citizen who also carries an Iranian passport, moved to Iran six years ago to work as a freelance journalist and complete her master's degree. She grew up in North Dakota, where she was a star soccer player and, in 1997, earned the title of Miss North Dakota and competed in the Miss America pageant.

"She called from an unknown place and said she's been kept in detention," her father said.

A few minutes after that call, she phoned again and said she would be out in two days and asked her father not to do anything.

Officials in Iran have not confirmed the arrest. A State Department duty officer said the agency is investigating.

Iranian officials revoked Roxana Saberi's press credentials more than a year ago, but she kept reporting short news stories from Iran.

Her father said she had planned to move back to Fargo this year.