Iran eyes New Year family visit for detained Germans

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Iran is considering a request for two detained German journalists to meet with their families over the New Year, the foreign ministry spokesman said on Tuesday.

"There has been a request that these people meet their families given that the Christian New Year is coming up. We are examining this request," Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters.

He was commenting on German calls for the release of the pair arrested in northeast Iran last October for interviewing the son and lawyer of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery.

Senior presidential aide Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, in a German newspaper on Sunday, spoke of a request for the two men to meet with their families at the German embassy in Tehran over Christmas.

"The Iranian government is working on this and we are very optimistic," Mashaie was quoted as saying.

Iran's judiciary said on Monday the two unnamed men working for the mass circulation German weekly Bild am Sonntag were still under investigation.

But general prosecutor Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie said they were not facing espionage charges, contrary to a statement made in November by the justice chief of East Azerbaijan province where the arrests were made.

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

"Their offence is evident. They have accepted that. But the court must investigate and the judiciary officials will decide," foreign ministry spokesman Mehmanparast said.

© 2010 AFP

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