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No political charges against detained German in Iran

Teheran (dpa) - There are no political charges against the detained German businessman Helmut Hofer in Iran , informed sources said Thursday.

``There are no political charges against Hofer and the remarks by the judiciary spokesman were not based on any political aspects,'' the sources said. Judiciary spokesman Saaid Nobari had said on Sunday after the German's renewed arrest and detainment that Hofer is accused of having consorted with ``suspicious foreign elements'' and was told there were fears that he might try leaving the country.

``Hofer was several ties visited by his relatives and friends in Teheran and his guards became suspicious that the visitors were encouraging the German to flee the country,'' the sources said.

``He was therefore arrested and detained again for avoiding any run away attempts,'' the sources added. Since Sunday, it was unclear whether Hofer is still being charged with a sexual offence or with espionage because of the alleged ``contact with suspicious foreign elements''.

One of Hofer's two lawyers rejected the new charges and said that the German is under 24-hour surveillance of four security guards and could in no way establish any contact with either foreigners or Iranians. He was also unable to flee the country.

A top diplomat from the German embassy in Teheran had called on Tuesday on the Iranian foreign ministry to order the immediate release of the German but the social department of the foreign ministry could not follow the German demand as there has been no contact yet with the relevant judge in this regard. Also a visit by the German diplomats could not be arranged yet.

Hofer, 57, was sentenced to death in January 1998 for having a relationship with a 27-year-old medical student from the northeastern Iranian city of Mashad. Under Islamic law, a non-Moslem having sex with a Moslem woman faces the death sentence.

Iran 's High Court, however, lifted the death sentence last February and in April Hofer was released on a bail of more than 160,000 dollars, pending a new trial. He has been under house arrest in Iran and not allowed to leave the country.

According to the sources, Hofer was arrested by the police in the Teheran bazaar on Sunday while he was arranging the dispatch of two Persian carpets he had purchased earlier to Germany.

He was interrogated after the arrest for more than two hours and sent to the notorious Evin prison where he had been jailed from November 1997 to April 1998. His next trial is on August 11.

The Teheran daily Jomhuri Islami reported Sunday that Germany has arrested the 36-year Iranian Hamid Khorsand on hypothetical spy charges against Iranian opposition groups as an excuse to exert pressure on the country's judiciary regarding Hofer.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hamid-Reza Assefi said last week that Khorsand had no links with any government or non-governmental agencies, institutions or organization in Iran and Iran 's embassy in Bonn is only supposed to conduct its duties to make sure that his rights are protected according to the laws.

The informed sources however said that the renewed arrest of Hofer will have no effects on the final verdict and they were still optimistic that the German will be acquitted.


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