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Germany

Westerwelle: Germany working to free journalists arrested in Iran

Germany is attempting to free two journalists arrested in Iran for doing research without a permit. The Iranian govermnent said they were trying to interview the son of a woman sentenced to death by stoning.

banner posted at Colonna Square, in Rome on 01 September 2010 shows Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani

The stoning sentence against Ashtiani provoked international outrage

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Wednesday that he was doing all he could to secure the release of two journalists arrested in Iran for interviewing "counter-revolutionaries" whilst on tourist visas.

"We are working with urgency to resolve this case," Westerwelle said. He confirmed that the arrested men were German citizens, and that Germany was still trying to contact them.

Iran's judiciary said on Monday that the two were detained after interviewing the son of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the Iranian woman whose stoning sentence was shelved last month following a global outcry.

Working for release

Westerwelle has appealed to his Iranian counterpart, Manuscher Mottaki, to personally take up the case.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle

Westerwelle has asked his Iranian counterpart to intervene

"We are working on all diplomatic levels and using all diplomatic channels to pursue the freeing of these two Germans and returning them to Germany as soon as possible," Westerwelle said.

The two detainees have not been named and it is not clear who they were working for. Initial reports suggested they may have been working for the Bild am Sonntag weekly newspaper.

Hendrik Zoerner, the spokesperson of the German journalists trade union, DJV, said he contacted the newspaper for more information after the arrests were made public.

"At that time, their public stance was that they could not confirm or deny the reports. And so we still don't know who it was or who they were working for," Zoerner said. Some sources say the pair were a reporter and a photographer.

Risky business

Forbidden newspapers in Iran

Reporters without Borders calls Iran's media censorship 'disturbing'

The Iranian government has accused the men of breaking Iranian law by doing research without official accreditation. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast also said the two Germans were working with anti-revolutionary networks abroad.

"An anti-revolutionary group based in Germany made the preparations for these two people to refer to Ms Mohammadi's son," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told a weekly news conference on Tuesday.

Doing journalistic research in Iran on a tourist visa is very dangerous, says, Zoerner.

"Iran is not a free country and has been trying for years to hinder journalists who are practicing their profession. If you're caught doing research there as a tourist, you're taking a huge risk, " Zoerner said.

Author: Matthias Boelinger (smh)
Editor: Rob Turner

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