Germans arrested in Iran over Ashtiani case 'admit offence'
Two Germans arrested in Iran this week for interviewing the son of a woman facing execution by stoning have confessed to committing an offence, the public prosecutor said in reports on Friday.
"These two defendants who came to Tabriz in cooperation with hostile groups based abroad are currently detained and have admitted to having committed an offence," the state IRNA news agency quoted Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie as saying.
In a separate report, 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, who faces death by stoning.
"They recognised that it was an offence to pass oneself off wrongly as a journalist," the Fars news agency quoted him as saying.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said on Tuesday that the two detainees were Germans, and that his government was doing all it could to secure their release.
"We are 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," Westerwelle said.
On Friday, the German government said diplomats still had no direct contact with the arrested pair, and declined to comment on the reports they have confessed.
A foreign ministry spokesman told reporters in Berlin that efforts were continuing to secure their release.
IRNA reported that Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki met Westerwelle on Friday in Brussels on the sidelines of a "Friends of Democratic Pakistan" meeting.
It said Westerwelle asked that "the two Germans benefit from Islamic kindness" and be released, and Mottaki responded that "their file will be examined within the scope of the law."
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