Iran must disclose identities of detained Germans

New York, October 12, 2010–The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Iranian authorities to immediately disclose the names of two Germans who were arrested on Sunday and described as journalists in several news reports. CPJ also asked Iranian officials to clarify the circumstances surrounding the arrests of the two individuals and to state what, if any, charges were filed against them.
The head of the German Journalists’ Association, Michael Konken, said in a press statement that the detainees were journalists. Any uncertainty about their status, he added, had become “a pretext to avoid critical reporting about the violation of human rights in Iran.” He did not release their names.

According to initial German press reports, the detainees had been working for Bild am Sonntag, a mass-circulation tabloid. But a spokesman for the tabloid, Tobias Froehlich, said his company has no information about the arrest of any Bild “co-workers” in Iran, the Munich-based daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported. Froehlich did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CPJ.

Iranian judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni-Ejei announced Monday that two “foreign nationals” had been arrested while interviewing Sajad Ghaderzadeh, the son of Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani, a woman who was convicted of adultery and sentenced to death by stoning. “It turned out that the two people were not journalists–or that they had no proof for it, and had entered the country as tourists,” Mohseni-Ejei said in a report from Iranian state broadcaster Press TV.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast confirmed Tuesday that the two detainees are German citizens and said it was unclear if they are journalists. The detainees, he claimed, “had links with foreign-based counterrevolutionary networks, they were arrested and the case is under review,” the Associated Press reported.

“We call on Tehran to immediately disclose the identities of the two German detainees and to clarify the circumstances surrounding their arrest,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “Given Iran’s recent crackdown on journalists and lack of respect for the most basic standards of due process, we are gravely concerned about the situation.”