Iran confirms arrest of dissident writer

TEHRAN, Feb 5, wire services -- Iran on Wednesday confirmed it has arrested dissident writer Faraj Sarkuhi, whose disappearance had aroused concern in Western nations, as he was trying to leave the country.

The government newspaper Iran, quoting a police official, said Sarkuhi and his brother Ismael had been seized in a village near the southern port of Bushehr on Monday as they were planning to leave the country illegally.

They were waiting for two smugglers to secretly ferry them across the Gulf to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the official said, adding that the men planned ultimately to join their brother in Sweden, where he is living as a political refugee.

The official said the police had been looking for Sarkuhi since he was reported missing last week by his family.

Germany's foreign ministry said Tuesday that its embassy in Tehran had been informed by Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mahmud Vaezi of Sarkuhi's arrest and plans to put him on trial for "illegal immigration."

According to media rights group Reporters sans Frontieres, the writer was arrested January 27 by security forces in Tehran. Sarkuhi first disappeared on November 3 while planning to board a plane in Tehran for Germany. His family said he never arrived and he then reappeared in Tehran on December 20.

In a letter to his family published by Berlin's Tageszeitung newspaper on Thursday, Sarkuhi said he had been held for 47 days in November and December in a secret information ministry prison while he was supposedly in Germany.

Bonn called on Iranian authorities to "throw light on the matter" and said a link with the ongoing so-called Mykonos trial in Berlin was "not to be ruled out."

An Iranian and four Lebanese are being tried for gunning down Iranian Kurdish opposition figures in a Greek restaurant in Berlin in 1992. Prosecutors have accused top Iranian leaders of approving the killings.

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