Arrested foreigners linked to anti-revolution groups: Iran
Iran said on Tuesday that two foreigners arrested for posing as journalists and interviewing the son of a woman facing execution by stoning are suspected of having links with anti-revolution groups.
"The two foreign nationals... had tourist visas and connection with anti-revolution groups," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said at his weekly media conference.
"Because of that they have been arrested and their case is being looked into," he said in remarks translated in English by Press TV channel.
Mehmanparast insisted that the two posed as reporters and had been "preparing a report" of their meeting with the family of Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani, who is facing death by stoning over charges of adultery.
Iran's public prosecutor Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie had on Monday announced the arrests of the two foreigners, hinting that they were Germans.
He said the two had entered the Islamic republic as tourists and were "now in custody" after they had asked the son of Mohammadi-Ashtiani some questions.
"An investigation by official authorities showed these people are not journalists and they have been arrested for faking their journalistic status," Ejeie was quoted as saying by the website of Iranian state television Monday.
He strongly hinted the detainees may be two Germans by linking them to a Iranian human rights activist, Mina Ahadi, who had raised the alarm about the arrests from her base in Germany.
On Tuesday, Mehmanparast too indicated that the two foreigners are Germans.
"Some sources say they are Germans. The anti-revolution current that made preparation for referring them to Mohammadi's house, that political current is in Germany," he said.
He was referring to Ahadi, founder of the International Committees against Execution and Stoning which is based in Germany.
On Monday, Ahadi told AFP that she was on a telephone hook-up Sunday with Ashtiani's son Sajjad and her lawyer Javid Houtan Kian as they were being interviewed by journalists.
"Suddenly one of the journalists shouted, 'What's happening', and then said, 'Mrs Ahadi, I must hang up,' the activist told AFP in Germany.
"Since then, I've had no news," Ahadi said. "Normally we talk to each other daily. I've spoken to friends of Sajjad in Tabriz, and they've had no news either.
"I'm 100 percent sure they've been arrested, but we don't know where they are."
Ahadi said the two journalists were working for a German newspaper, but refused to name them for "security reasons."
The Association of German Journalists has called on its website for the immediate release of the two journalists without revealing their identity or employer.
Association president Michael Konken said the accusation the two were arrested because they were unaccredited was "a pretext to block critical coverage of human rights violations in Iran."
Ashtiani, a 43-year-old mother of two, was sentenced to death by two different courts in the northwestern city of Tabriz in separate trials in 2006.
The first death sentence, by hanging, for her involvement in the murder of her husband, was commuted to a 10-year jail term by an appeals court in 2007.
But the second, by stoning, was on a charge of adultery levelled over several relationships, notably with the man convicted of her husband's murder, was upheld by another appeals court the same year.
Since July, Iranian officials have said repeatedly the stoning sentence has been stayed, in the face of an international outcry including the Vatican.
Mehmanparast said last month that "the judicial process has not yet finished and the final judgement will be announced after the end of the process."
© 2010 AFP