Foreign minister seeks release of Germans arrested in Iran
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle personally asked his Iranian counterpart to help secure the release of two Germans arrested in Iran this week, his spokesman said Saturday.
Westerwelle had been given the impression that Manouchehr Mottaki would involve himself in the case of the pair detained after interviewing the son of a woman facing execution by stoning, the spokesman said.
The German minister had expressed "his urgent wish that our two compatriots may be able to return to Germany as quickly as possible" in talks in Brussels with Mottaki on Friday.
Iran's public prosecutor Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie said Friday the two defendants "who came to Tabriz in cooperation with hostile groups based abroad" had admitted to having committed an offence, Iranian news agencies reported.
Ejeie said the pair entered Iran on tourist visas and identified themselves as journalists without any proof before contacting the family of Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani.
"They recognised that it was an offence to pass oneself off wrongly as a journalist," he was quoted as saying.
Westerwelle said on Tuesday that his government was "working on all diplomatic levels and using all diplomatic channels to pursue the freeing of these two Germans and returning them to Germany as soon as possible."
But on Friday, the German government said diplomats still had no direct contact with the arrested pair, and declined to comment on the reports they had confessed.
Iran's state news agency IRNA reported that in his meeting with Mottaki on the sidelines of a "Friends of Democratic Pakistan" conference in Brussels Westerwelle asked that "the two Germans benefit from Islamic kindness" and be released.
Mottaki responded that "their file will be examined within the scope of the law," IRNA said.
Ashtiani 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, and was upheld by another appeals court the same year.
Since July, Iranian officials have said repeatedly that the stoning sentence has been stayed, in the face of an international outcry including from the Vatican.
© 2010 AFP