Germany urges Iran to show reporters Christmas clemency

19th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

Germany's foreign minister and Church leaders called on Iran Sunday to grant two German reporters detained since October clemency at Christmas, in an appeal in their newspaper.

Asked whether there was hope Iranian authorities would allow the reporters' families to visit them over the holiday, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle urged Tehran to do so.

"I call on the Iranian government, in the context of the Christian Christmas celebration, which is also respected in the Islamic world, to make a humanitarian gesture," he told the mass-circulation weekly Bild am Sonntag, adding that he was working "intensively" for their release.

Seven Church leaders called in the same newspaper for the reporters to be sent home before Christmas Eve on December 24.

"I urge the government in Tehran to release both journalists immediately," the head of the German Episcopal Conference, Robert Zollitsch, said.

"Only a society that respects human rights can be called humane."

The head of the German Protestant community, Nikolaus Schneider, joined the appeal.

"Press freedom is very precious and must be fought for worldwide," he said. "It is unacceptable for journalists who search for the truth to be imprisoned."

Bild am Sonntag said its two employees, who have not been named, travelled to Iran to investigate the case of Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani, a woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery.

They were arrested on October 10 in Tabriz in northwest Iran together with Mohammadi-Ashtiani's son and the family's lawyer.

Iran says the two entered the country on tourist visas and failed to obtain accreditation from the authorities for journalistic work.

An Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said in early December that Tehran was considering a request for the detained journalists to meet with their families over the New Year.

© 2010 AFP

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