Sakineh Mohammedi Ashtiani Iran stoning 311 AP.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
BERLIN – German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle summoned Ambassador Ali Reza
Sheikh Attar earlier this week because of Iran’s refusal to grant access to the
family members of two German journalists it has held captive since October.
Teheran then immediately backed down and enabled the access.
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for the German Foreign Ministry told The Jerusalem Post that Westerwelle
expressed his “displeasure” with the detention of the two journalists, who work
for the mass circulation Bild am Sonntag.
The journalists, Marcus Hellwig
and Jens Koch, were arrested in mid-October for interviewing family members of
Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the woman sentenced to death by stoning for alleged
According to the ministry, Koch and Hellwig were supposed to
receive visits during the Christmas period from family members, but the Iranian
government reneged on its assurances to permit visitations, prompting
Westerwelle to summon the ambassador on Monday.
The mother of Koch, a
photographer, and the sister of Hellwig, a reporter, had arrived in Iran
expecting to be allowed to see their loved ones.
The ministry spokesman
told the Post that the family members and German Ambassador Bernd Erbel were
finally allowed to meet with the journalists late on Monday evening and on
The journalists are being held in Tabriz, 600 km. northwest of
Teheran. The meeting took place at a hotel in Tabriz and was the result of
shuttle diplomacy between Westerwelle and his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar
Germany’s handling of the hostage crisis has sparked criticism in
the international press and among some German bloggers.
A Wall Street
editorial said in late November that “Berlin is reluctant to
impose harsh sanctions against the Islamic Republic. German Chancellor Angela
Merkel has refused to shut down the Hamburg- based European Iranian Trade Bank,
which the US Treasury blacklisted in September.
And as long as Teheran
holds the journalists, Berlin will have to think twice about following
“Then again, the journalists’ fate could help steel
A lengthy article in the Swiss daily Neue Zürcher
in mid-December criticized the “strange silence” of the German media
regarding the hostage crisis.
Both the mainstream German media and the
Foreign Ministry have refused to identify the reporters, although the
English language press has named them.