Germany welcomes Iranian dissidents: ministry

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Germany has welcomed 12 Iranian dissidents who fled their country last year following the disputed presidential election in the Islamic republic, the interior ministry said Saturday.

Acting for "humanitarian reasons", Berlin is expected to receive a total of 50 dissidents who had criticised the Iranian regime and then fled to Turkey, a ministry spokesman said.

So far 12 Iranians have arrived and one more is due in Germany next week. A further 26 dissidents have been selected while 11 others are going through the selection process.

In March Germany had announced that it was planning to welcome in "a series of isolated cases" some Iranian dissidents now living abroad, as a "gesture of solidarity" in the protest against human rights abuses by the Tehran regime.

In June last year, some 36 people died in a violent crackdown on massive street protests opposed to the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, according to Iranian officials, while opposition groups say 72 people lost their lives.

Initially Berlin had planned receive some 20 dissidents, working in cooperation with the United Nations agency for refugees, but in May decided to increase the number, the ministry spokesman said.

Relations between Berlin and Tehran have become strained in the past year after Germany strongly backed the fourth set of UN sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme.

© 2010 AFP

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