Iran General NewsGerman reporters freed by Iran arrive home

German reporters freed by Iran arrive home

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AFP: Two German reporters detained in Iran after interviewing the son and lawyer of a woman facing death by stoning arrived home Sunday after being fined and freed, the foreign ministry said.

BERLIN (AFP) — Two German reporters detained in Iran after interviewing the son and lawyer of a woman facing death by stoning arrived home Sunday after being fined and freed, the foreign ministry said.

“I am very happy that Marcus Hellwig and Jens Koch are finally able to return to us in Germany as free people,” Chancellor Angela Merkel told the Bild am Sonntag, the newspaper for which the two men work.

Koch’s father, Andreas Hartmann, said he was overjoyed by the end of the reporters’ four-month imprisonment, which had strained relations between Berlin and Tehran.

“I think I did not say anything on the telephone, I just listened and cried uncontrollably,” he said in remarks also printed in Bild.

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle travelled to Iran personally to retrieve the journalists, in the first trip of the top German diplomat to the country since Joschka Fischer visited in October 2003.

During his brief stay, Westerwelle met with his counterpart Ali Akbar Salehi and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Westerwelle told reporters in Berlin after his return that he was relieved the men’s ordeal was over and hoped they could “quickly return to a normal life”.

“I thank my Iranian counterpart for his helpful support on this issue,” he said, adding that he had broached the subject of human rights “with urgency in all the talks I had”.

Salehi had said Saturday that Westerwelle’s visit was to “strengthen bilateral ties.” More meetings had already been scheduled for the future, he added.

The two reporters were arrested on October 10 in the northwestern city of Tabriz after interviewing the son and lawyer of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, whose death sentence by stoning for adultery drew widespread international condemnation.

An Iranian court sentenced the journalists to 20 months in prison for acting against “national security” but then commuted the sentence to fines of around 50,000 dollars (36,500 euros) each, ISNA news agency said.

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