Journalist Group Says 2 Germans in Iran Not Spies

BERLIN-- A journalists' association Tuesday strongly rejected spying accusations against two Germans detained in Iran in connection with a highly publicized stoning case and called for their immediate release.

The German Journalists' Association criticized Iran for showing the two in a broadcast on state television Monday in which they admitted mistakes.

The two were arrested last month while interviewing the son and lawyer of 43-year-old Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, who was sentenced to be stoned to death for adultery.

"Coverage of human rights violations is not spying, but important information," the journalist association's deputy chairman, Ulrike Kaiser, said in a statement Tuesday. She urged Germany's Foreign Ministry to increase its efforts to get the two men released.

Iranian officials have questioned whether the Germans are journalists, saying they posed as reporters without providing any evidence to support the claim.

The Iranian government has said the pair admitted entering Iran on tourist visas, instead of on the journalist visas foreign reporters must have to work legally in the country.

German officials haven't identified the pair or said what they were doing.

The prosecutor in Iran's East Azerbaijan province, where Ashtiani was arrested, told the Iranian government's main English-language broadcast arm, Press TV, that Germans' behavior showed they entered the country as spies.

Prosecutor Hojjatoleslam Malek Ajdar Sharifi was quoted as saying Monday that the Germans "are certainly spies and their case will be addressed" in court.

A German Foreign Ministry spokesman said the two were receiving assistance from the embassy. He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with German government policy.