Rafsanjani Tells Germany Journalist's Arrest An Internal Matter

TEHRAN, Iran, Feb. 12, wire services --President Hashemi Rafsanjani said Wednesday that the arrest of a dissident journalist was an internal matter and that Germany should not try to interfere.

Iran and Germany have been sparring for weeks over the disappearance of writer Faraj Sarkuhi, who was arrested earlier this month, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

The agency said he was 'trying to leave the country illegally through the southern port of Bushehr, along with his brother and two smugglers.'

Rafsanjani told a news conference here that the detention of Sarkuhi 'is a 100 percent domestic issue and the Germans must not interfere in it.' He added: 'We are in the process of studying this matter.'

Sarkuhi's ordeal with Iranian authorities started last summer. He was among six writers arrested during a raid at a reception at the home of Germany's cultural attache in Tehran, Jen Goust. The writers were detained for a day. Since then, he has disappeared and reappeared several times under mysterious circumstances.

Earlier this month, German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Erdmann demanded that Iran clarify Sarkuhi's situation. He said Germany, Iran's largest Western trade partner, did not exclude diplomatic action against Iran over the case.

Rafsanjani said Iran found Germany's response to the affair 'surprising and confusing.' He said Sarkuhi was in Germany in November, at the time when Bonn had questioned Tehran over his disappearance.

'Sarkuhi was in Germany and the Germans did not reveal everything,' Rafsanjani said. 'The issue became a puzzle and was sensationalized as a result. The important thing is that the issue must be clarified,' he said.

Sarkuhi, a journalist known for his sharp criticism of the Tehran government, first disappeared on Nov. 3, the day he was to fly from Tehran to Hamburg to join his wife and children.

Iran said he had gone to Germany as planned. He surfaced a week later in Tehran, saying he had been in Germany trying to retrieve his children. But a German newspaper later printed an open letter from Sarkuhi in which he said he had been forced to give the Tehran news conference.

He said had been arrested at Tehran airport on Nov. 3, held in prison for 47 days, interrogated and tortured.

Iran and Germany already are at odds over accusations by German prosecutors that Iranian leaders were behind the 1992 murder in Berlin of a Kurdish opposition leader and three aides.

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