Iran arrests 2 foreign reporters trying to interview woman who could be stoned

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By Thomas Erdbrink
Monday, October 11, 2010; 1:59 PM

TEHRAN - Two foreign journalists have been arrested in Iran while interviewing family members of a woman who could be stoned to death for adultery, Iran's chief prosecutor said Monday.

"They had entered the country as tourists and were posing as reporters," Gholam Hossein Mohseni-Ejei told reporters. He did not disclose the identities of the arrested reporters.

The two men were widely reported to be working for Bild Zeitung, a German weekly, but a spokesperson for the daily that it had "no information regarding any arrest of employees of our company."

The incident could lead to further deterioration of relations between Iran and Germany, traditionally one of the Islamic Republic's most important business partners.

The prosecutor said the two men had been secretly interviewing the son of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a woman who could face death by stoning.

In August, she confessed on state-run television that she had been an accomplice in her husband's murder and had committed adultery with his cousin. But her attorney said she made the statements under duress after being tortured for two days, and she told London's Guardian newspaper through an intermediary that Iranian officials were lying about the murder charge.

"An expatriate Iranian who had fled to a foreign country contacted Ashtiani's family and said that two reporters would come to their house in order to make a report . . . but one of the family friends became suspicious of them and informed the officials," Mohseni-Ejei said, according to the semiofficial Mehr News Agency.

Iran regularly arrests foreign nationals, usually regarding border incidents. Two Americans accused of illegal entry and spying have been held in Tehran since July 2009. Foreign journalists need permission from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance to be able to work in Iran.

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