Iran holding Dutch woman over drugs: ministry

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Tehran said Friday it is holding a Dutch-Iranian woman caught with drugs, state news agency IRNA reported, after the Netherlands sought details about a dual citizen reportedly on death row.

"One of the cases that Western countries use to pressure the Islamic republic is the case of a woman named Zahra Bahrami, who holds European passports as well as an Iranian passport," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said, quoted by IRNA.

A Dutch-Iranian woman with the same name has reportedly been sentenced to death for drug-smuggling after being arrested in December 2009.

"(Bahrami) has been arrested by the police for carrying over a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of narcotics," Mehmanparast said without elaborating on the sentence or her nationality.

He dismissed foreign interference in the case, in comments apparently aimed at the Netherlands which sought clarification two weeks ago about a Dutch-Iranian woman in her 40s reportedly sentenced to death.

"They are not allowed to interfere in our internal affairs and our judiciary is quite independent," said Mehmanparast.

On January 5, Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal expressed "extreme concern" about Bahrami and said he had "asked the Iranian authorities to provide immediate clarification about these worrying reports.

"We insist on information, the possibility to provide her with consular assistance, and a fair course of justice," Rosenthal said in a statement at the time.

Bahrami, an Iranian-born, naturalised Dutch citizen, was reportedly arrested after taking part in a protest against the Iranian government while visiting relatives there.

The Netherlands claimed Iran had refused the Dutch embassy access to the prisoner as it does not recognise her dual nationality.

Dutch broadcaster Radio Netherlands Worldwide reported Bahrami had been found guilty of drug smuggling and sentenced to death by a court in Tehran citing her daughter.

According to the broadcaster, Bahrami was awaiting trial in a second capital case in which she was accused of membership of an armed opposition group.

© 2011 AFP

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