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German journalists charged with spying in Iran

German journalists charged with spying in Iran
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The German tabloid Bild am Sonntag has confirmed that two reporters charged in Iran with spying are journalists for the weekly paper.

Iranian state TV has shown pictures of the pair, who were arrested last month. They are accused of working illegally by interviewing the son of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, whose death sentence by stoning for adultery sparked international outrage.

The broadcast contained an apparent attack from her prison by the condemned woman, accusing an Iranian exile living in Germany of orchestrating the affair.

In a voiced over translation, a woman identified as Ashtiani accused said: “I want to tell Mrs Mina Ahadi that my case is none of your business. I committed a sin.”

The outcry over Ashtiani’s sentence prompted Tehran to accuse the west of trying to discredit Iran.

According to the Iranian TV broadcast, the two detained journalists say they were tricked by the German-based Iranian activist into interviewing Ashtiani’s family.

The report also showed a man it identified as Ashtiani’s son, apparently retracting his earlier claim that his mother had been tortured. “I was told to say so by her lawyers,” he said, “I lied about everything to the foreign media.”

The man’s identity can’t be verified.

The fallout over the Ashtiani case is adding to strains between Iran and the west, just as diplomats are talking about resuming negotiations over Iran’s nuclear programme.

Germany says it is doing all it can to try to secure the two journalists’ release.