TEHRAN (Reuters) - Two foreigners who interviewed the son of a woman prisoner at the centre of a international row were arrested by Iran because the pair had links with “anti-revolutionary” networks abroad, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Tuesday.
Iran’s judiciary said on Monday the two foreigners had been detained when meeting the son of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, whose sentence to death by stoning for adultery was halted last month following a global outcry.
“The two had links with anti-revolutionary networks abroad ... an anti-revolutionary group based in Germany made the preparations for these two people to refer to Ms Mohammadi’s son,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told a weekly news conference. He gave no further details.
Mehmanparast declined to confirm whether the detainees were German nationals as some reports suggested.
“Some sources said they are Germans,” he said. Germany’s foreign office has not confirmed that its nationals are involved.
Correspondents working for foreign media require official permission to travel outside Tehran or to report on demonstrations and other unofficial political events.
“We are not sure if they are reporters because if you are a reporter you should have your press visa when you enter the country,” he said. “The two entered Iran with tourist visas.”
In another incident highlighting Iran’s sensitivity to foreign media’s news coverage, an accredited journalist for Spain’s El Pais newspaper was given two weeks to leave Iran on Monday.
The newspaper said the decision appeared to be linked to an interview Angeles Espinosa had conducted with the son of the late dissident Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri in July.
El Pais has also campaigned for the release of Ashtiani whose sentence to stoning for adultery caused global outrage. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the case had been whipped up by hostile foreign media and refused to have her released.
Iran has often accused foreign powers of aiding anti-government movements to topple the clerical establishment.
Murder, adultery, rape, armed robbery, apostasy and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Iran’s sharia law, practised since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Judicial figures say Mohammadi Ashtiani, could still face execution for murder.
Human rights group Amnesty International says was aware of at least 10 other people - including seven women - under sentence of stoning in the Islamic state.
Reporting by Hashem Kalantari, Writing by Parisa Hafezi and Robin Pomeroy, Editing by Matthew Jones