Germans detained in Iran 'to meet families'

27th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

Two German journalists detained in Iran since October will meet with their families, Iranian and German officials said on Monday after Berlin denied reports the encounter had already taken place.

"The families have left Tehran for Tabriz," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said on the Arabic-language Al-Alam channel of public television.

That tallied with information from Germany, whose foreign ministry told AFP the "relatives are now on their way" Tabriz, a city about 530 kilometres (330 miles) northwest of the capital Tehran.

The official IRNA news agency reported the foreign ministry "has made it possible for two German nationals arrested in Iran to meet their families" after German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle appealed to his Iranian counterpart.

German weekly Bild am Sonntag has 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 together with the son and family lawyer of Ashtiani, whose case has sparked international outrage and diplomatic intervention by several Western governments as well as the Vatican.

Iran says the two entered the country on tourist visas and failed to obtain necessary accreditation for journalists from the authorities before "posing as reporters" when they contacted her family.

The request for a meeting with their families was granted "on humanitarian grounds" and took into account the Christian holiday season, IRNA reported without giving any indication of exactly when the meeting would be held.

"The German foreign ministry and the German embassy had been informed," said the official news agency.

Iran's semi-official Mehr news agency said earlier that the encounter had already taken place, but that was denied by the Berlin government.

A German spokesman said "there has been no meeting as yet," while adding however that Iran's acting foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, "confirmed that a meeting could take place."

Earlier on Monday, Germany summoned the Iranian ambassador over Tehran's refusal to allow the jailed journalists see their families over the Christmas holidays, a spokesman said.

German foreign ministry spokesman Stefan Bredohl said the reporters' families had travelled to Iran to visit them in jail but that the trip had been in vain despite "several firm promises from the Iranian side".

"As such a visit has yet to take place, the Iranian ambassador was summoned to the foreign ministry and State Secretary (Wolf-Ruthart) Born very clearly expressed the German government's displeasure," Bredohl said.

Iran's prosecutor general Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie said on December 5 that the two Germans were placed under investigation for illegal entry to the country, while denying they faced espionage charges.

"These two did some violations after entering the country, which is under investigation. Nobody labelled them as spies," he was quoted as saying at the time.

All journalists working for foreign media in Iran must obtain accreditation from the ministry of culture and Islamic guidance in order to work in the Islamic republic.

© 2010 AFP

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