Khatami to visit Germany after clear-up of Hofer case
BERLIN, Oct 17 (AFP) - Iran's President Mohammed Khatami will visit
Germany when the case of detained German businessman Helmut Hofer has been
resolved, the head of the chancellor's office indicated in an interview
The principle of a visit in the near future is already agreed, but no
date has been fixed.
"Such a visit could not be a success unless it was not burdened
or overshadowed by cases from the past," state secretary Frank-Walter
Steinmeier said in the interview with Die Welt am Sonntag.
It is in that context that one should regard the efforts to secure Hofer's
release, the minister was quoted as saying, stating that both governments
were striving in order that "Khatami's visit will take place soon."
"Despite Mr. Hofer's new remand in custody, we have not given up
hope that it (the visit) will soon be possible," the minister said.
Hofer was arrested in 1997 accused of having illicit sex with an Iranian
medical student and subsequently sentenced to death. That was commuted
to a heavy fine, but despite payment of the fine, he remains in detention.
On Thursday, he was remanded in custody after a re-arrest, accused this
time of insulting a police officer. According to Hofer's lawyer Saturday,
he was expected to remain in detention in Tehran for at least another week.
Nasser Taheri explained that he went to court Saturday to see the judge
in the case and to inform himself of the latest developments, but that
the judge had taken a week's holiday. Hofer, 57, has already spent 20 months
In an interview in the German weekly Focus, the chairman of the German
parliamentary interior affairs committee, Willfried Penner, described the
re-arrest as tantamount to "hostage-taking" by the Iranian state.
Penner, of the ruling Social Democrat Party, said the affair showed
the arbitrary nature of justice in Iran. Such statements are "not
helpful," Steinmeier remarked.
"German-Iranian relations have suffered in the past from considerable
irritants and aggravating problems, including the Hofer case. But the two
sides are striving, through numerous conversations, including recently,
to build constructive relations," he said in the interview.
"The German government can naturally not be content that a new
warrant for remand in custody as been issued against Hofer.
"But regarding Khatami, one must laud Hofer's being cleared of
having had relations with an Iranian woman as a remarkable signal,"
One also "could not ignore" the fact that President Khatami
"has with courage and energy led Iran back into the world community,"
Before the Hofer case, relations between Germany and Iran were already
severely strained by the 1992 assassination in Berlin of four Kurdish Iranian
opposition figures and its aftermath.
In the investigation and trial of the killers, the prosecution portrayed
the accused as having acted on orders emanating from the highest levels
of the Iranian state.
The organiser of the assassinations, the Iranian government agent Kazem
Darabi, has been sentenced to life imprisonment, and there has been suggestion
that Tehran wants to trade Hofer for release of the assassin.