‘To free two reporters, Germany helped India pay Iran’https://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/web/to-free-two-reporters-germany-helped-india-pay-iran/

‘To free two reporters, Germany helped India pay Iran’

Germany’s central bank,Bundesbank,cleared the transaction,the magazine quoted sources as saying.

Germany had facilitated the clearance of India’s outstanding oil bill with Iran in February this year in return for the release of two German journalists held in custody by Tehran,a German news magazine has reported.

The online edition of Der Spiegel today reported that India’s payment of about $ 1.5 billion to Iran through a bank in Germany,the European-Iranian Trading Bank (EITB),was “facilitated” by the German government as part of a deal to get its journalists released.

Germany’s central bank,Bundesbank,cleared the transaction,the magazine quoted sources as saying.

India was wary of making a direct payment to Iran because of the prevailing global economic sanctions against that country for running an allegedly illegal nuclear programme. As such,New Delhi,which imports a huge amount of oil from Iran,was looking for another other route to transfer the money and Germany offered to help in a quid pro quo arrangement that would ensure that the two journalists,in custody for about 130 days,would be freed by Tehran.

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These two reporters,belonging to a weekly newspaper Bild am Sonntag,had entered Iran on tourist visas and were arrested in October last year after interviewing the son of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani,an Iranian woman who had received global attention after being sentenced to death by stoning on charges of committing adultery. Both of them were given a 20-month jail sentence.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle had personally travelled to Tehran in February and brought these two reporters back to his country.

Spiegel Online said the German government’s official response to its queries in this regard had been “reserved.”

“A connection was neither confirmed nor denied. When asked what role the Indian-Iranian deal played in the release of the two prisoners (journalists),a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry said: ‘The federal government became active at the very beginning of the detention of the two German journalists in October 2010,so that they could be brought back to Germany as soon as possible’.”