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Germans charged with espionage in Iran to meet with families

By the CNN Wire Staff
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has accused the West of overhyping an Iranian woman's death sentence.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has accused the West of overhyping an Iranian woman's death sentence.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Reports: Iran's foreign minister allows detained Germans to meet families
  • The German nationals were arrested in October in Tabriz
  • They are accused of posing as journalists to interview relatives of a convicted woman
  • The German leader requested the meeting on humanitarian grounds, the IRNA said

(CNN) -- Two German journalists charged with espionage in Iran for interviewing the son and lawyer of a woman condemned to die by stoning will meet with their family members Monday, according to reports from both countries.

The Iranian foreign minister "assured the relatives that they will be able to meet with the arrested German nationals in the city of Tabriz," a spokesperson with the German Foreign Ministry confirmed.

The two men, identified only as a reporter and photojournalist, were arrested in October in the northwest city of Tabriz after they interviewed the son and lawyer of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, who was convicted of adultery in 2006 and sentenced to death by stoning.

"Their reports and propaganda in Tabriz proved that they are in the country for spying," Malek Ajdar Shafiee, the head of the Justice Department of East Azarbaijan, was quoted as saying by Iran's semi-official Fars News Agency.

The Iranian government also says Ashtiani was involved in her husband's murder, a charge her family has denied.

Family members of the German nationals traveled to Iran on Friday accompanied by Brand Erbel, the German ambassador to Tehran, Iran's semi-official Mehr news agency reported.

The reunion is expected to take place in the Iranian city of Tabriz, where the German nationals were arrested, according to Mehr.

German leader Guido Westerwelle requested the meeting on humanitarian grounds, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency, and Iran's foreign minister, Ali-Akbar Salehi, agreed to the meeting.

The charges against the two Germans came the day after they were shown on Iranian state-run television.

The program, produced by Iran's Channel 2, quoted one of the men saying that they were "tricked" by an activist with the German-based International Committee Against Stoning into entering the country illegally.

The unnamed man told the television station that the committee's spokeswoman, Mina Ahadi, used the journalists for her own gain.

"Mina Ahadi sent me to Iran because she knew she would benefit from my arrest and I'll sue her when I get back to Germany," the man said.

Ahadi denied that the journalists traveled on behalf of the anti-stoning organization.

The broadcast also showed a woman identified as Ashtiani.

The woman, whose face was blurred and whose words were translated from the Azeri language to Farsi, blamed Ahadi for spreading false information about her case around the world.

Ashtiani's son, Sajjad Gaderzadeh, and her lawyer Hootan Kian, were also interviewed on the program, the first time they have appeared on television since their arrests in October.

Kian, a government-appointed lawyer, has been critical of the government's handling of Ashtiani's case. He told CNN in August that she was being tortured while in prison and that he also feared for his own life.

Gaderzadeh said Kian had told him that his mother was being tortured. "Unfortunately I listened to them and lied to the foreign media about everything," he said on the program.

This is the third time Ashtiani has appeared on state-run television confessing to the charges of adultery and murder.

"I am a sinner," she said on the program.

The International Committee Against Stoning condemned the televised confession.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran's goal in airing this program is to agitate public opinion against Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani and Mina Ahadi, yet despite all efforts, in and of itself the program is a powerful reflection of the international campaign to save Sakineh," said a statement from the organization.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in late September the West is deliberately hyping the case of the convicted Iranian woman, while ignoring the fact that 53 women are on death row in the United States and awaiting execution.

Iranian courts have said Ashtiani's case is still under review.