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Germany condemns Iranian charges of Berlin conference participants

December 20, Berlin (dpa) - Germany on Wednesday condemned charges made against 17 Iranian nationals who attended an Iran conference in Berlin earlier this year sponsored by the Greens Party.

``The German government views the charges ... as wrong,'' said an official reply by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's government published by parliament.

Those charged by Iranian revolutionary courts were alleged to be guilty of counter-revolutionary moves which threatened the Islamic Republic, said the government.

Germany and the European Union would continue efforts on behalf of the people charged, said Schroeder's government, adding that all statements made at the Iran conference conformed with both Iranian and German constitutional law which guarantee freedom of speech.

The meeting in Berlin last spring was sponsored by the Heinrich Boell Foundation which is linked to the Greens who serve Schroeder's coalition partner. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer is a leading Greens member.

Iran's ambassador to Germany was summoned to the Foreign Ministry last month for a formal protest over the trial of participants charged after the conference.

The simmering discord over the trial shows that German-Iranian ties - which only warmed last July with the visit of Iranian President Mohammad Khatami to Germany - could be headed for trouble again.

During the visit Schroeder raised the level of German state guarantees for exports to Iran to 1 billion marks (456 million dollars) from the present 200 million marks.

Officials have said in past months that Schroeder plans to visit Iran next year, possibly in May. But whether the visit could go ahead if the trial issue has not been resolved is open to question.

Relations between both states had been chilled for past years over the case of a German businessman, Helmut Hofer, who was arrested and twice sentenced to death for having a sexual relationship with an Iranian woman.

After massive German intervention Hofer was released and allowed to return home last January.


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