Iran General NewsNorth Korea, Iran hold U.S. reporters hostage, media group...

North Korea, Iran hold U.S. reporters hostage, media group says

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ImageBloomberg: North Korea and Iran are holding three U.S. reporters as “political hostages” to strengthen their position in negotiations with the Obama administration, the International Press Institute said.

By Michael Heath

ImageApril 21 (Bloomberg) — North Korea and Iran are holding three U.S. reporters as “political hostages” to strengthen their position in negotiations with the Obama administration, the International Press Institute said.

The Vienna-based media rights group called for the release of two Americans detained in North Korea and Roxana Saberi, who was jailed for eight years last week in Iran for spying.

“It is beyond contempt that these journalists are being held hostage to the fortunes of political brinkmanship by countries who share an outdated belief that this is the best way to conduct negotiations on difficult international subjects,” IPI Director David Dadge said in a statement yesterday.

North Korea, which launched a missile April 5 and then quit international talks on its nuclear weapons program, in mid-March detained Euna Lee and Laura Ling for allegedly illegally entering the country from China. Saberi, who holds U.S. and Iranian citizenship, was convicted of spying in a closed trial.

Iran routinely accuses the U.S. of sending agents and seeking to topple the Islamic regime. In January, the government in Tehran said it dismantled a network that benefited from U.S. funds and Central Intelligence Agency guidance in planning a “soft overthrow” of the Shiite Muslim cleric-led government.

Obama Overtures

Saberi’s case comes as President Barack Obama makes overtures to ease a dispute over Iran’s nuclear program and end a 30-year diplomatic freeze. Iran’s judiciary yesterday ordered an immediate appeal for Saberi, a day after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad intervened in the case, saying the 31-year-old reporter should be given “justice,” including the right to defend herself.

Ahmadinejad said April 15 his government would present new proposals to end suspicions Iran is seeking nuclear weapons.

The IPI said that accusing reporters of being spies “is just another desperate way for authoritarian rulers to smother the truth and delude their populations.”

North Korean prosecutors said last month they were preparing to indict the two detained U.S. journalists.

The reporters’ “suspected hostile acts have been confirmed by evidence and their statements,” the communist state’s Korea Central News Agency said March 31. No details were provided on when they may appear in court.

Kim Jong Il’s regime said last week it quit six-nation disarmament talks and vowed to resume work on its nuclear program after the United Nations condemned the country for launching the missile over Japan.

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