Reuters: Iran’s prosecutor-general has said that two Germans who were arrested in Iran when they tried to interview the son of a woman sentenced to be stoned to death had admitted breaking the law, state media reported on Friday.
TEHRAN, Oct 15 (Reuters) – Iran’s prosecutor-general has said that two Germans who were arrested in Iran when they tried to interview the son of a woman sentenced to be stoned to death had admitted breaking the law, state media reported on Friday.
Germany has said it is seeking the release of two reporters seized on Monday after meeting the son of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, whose death sentence for adultery was shelved last month following a global outcry.
Adultery is punishable by stoning under Iran’s Islamic law. Ashtiani also faces a charge of being complicit in the murder of her husband, a crime for which she could face death by hanging.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has that denied Ashtiani was ever sentenced to stoning and says foreign media whipped up the story to discredit Iran.
The Germans’ detention risks worsening relations as the European Union tries to bring Iran back to talks over its nuclear programme, which the West fears may be aimed at created an atomic bomb.
Iran says the Germans entered on tourist visas and had no right to act as reporters. Accredited correspondents working for foreign media need official permission to travel outside Tehran.
German media say the detainees were reporting for the mass-circulation Bild am Sonntag newspaper, but the paper’s publisher, Axel Springer, has declined to comment.
“The two Germans have acknowledged their offence, saying that claiming to be journalists was not right,” prosecutor-general Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei was reported as saying on the website of the state-run Press TV.
“They were pursuing a certain agenda,” he told reporters in Tabriz in Iran’s northwest, where the Germans conducted their interview.
Iran has not said what charges the Germans may face. The Foreign Ministry has said they had links with “anti-revolutionary networks abroad” and that an “anti-revolutionary group” in Germany helped them to contact Ashtiani’s son.
The Press TV report said the Germans “contacted the Ashtiani family disguised as journalists”.
Separately, Iran’s intelligence minister said there were no plans to release two U.S. citizens held for more than 14 months.
“The two American detainees accused of spying should wait to stand trial and for the legal verdict,” Heidar Moslehi said, according to the official news agency IRNA.
Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were arrested on July 31, 2009, along Iran’s border with Iraq, where their families say they were hiking. Their female companion, Sarah Shourd, was released on $500,000 bail last month and returned to the United States.
“Sarah Shourd has been temporarily released on a heavy bail due to Islamic compassion and illness and should return to the country if necessary,” Moslehi said.
“There are some documents about the American detainees which have been handed to the judicial system to decide about.”
An Omani official has told Reuters the Gulf state is in talks with Iran about the possible release of the Americans. (Writing by Robin Pomeroy; Editing by Kevin Liffey)