SPIEGEL Interview with Iranian Foreign Minister Salehi 'We Don't Toy with Human Lives'

It has been three months since two German journalists were detained in Iran -- and they still haven't been released. SPIEGEL spoke with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi about their ongoing detention, when they might be released and Iran's justice system.


SPIEGEL: Mr. Foreign Minister, two reporters with the Axel Springer publishing group have been jailed in Tabriz for almost 100 days now, merely because they tried to conduct an interview. In addition to being completely inappropriate, this is inhuman.

Salehi: It's unfortunate that this situation arose in the first place. But you mustn't forget what really happened. Two Germans entered Iran on a tourist visa and knowingly broke our laws. They went to Tabriz to report on the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani…

SPIEGEL: ... who was sentenced to death by stoning because of an extramarital affair ...

Salehi: ... which is a crime, in the view of our legal experts. But she also committed other crimes and played a part in the murder of her husband. She is a criminal, like many others in the world. Why are people in your country so interested in this woman? Because certain groups are trying to exert political pressure on Iran through their reporting. To that end, they are prepared to break our laws instead of entering the country on work visas.

SPIEGEL: Such visas are rare. Journalists who enter the country nonetheless may be violating regulations, but they certainly aren't committing a crime.

Salehi: It's a violation of our laws. Our courts must take action against this sort of thing. Besides, there is also the suspicion that they were sent by people who are waging a terrorist fight against our country.

SPIEGEL: Do you think it's really appropriate for the two Germans in question to be locked in a windowless cell -- one which is constantly illuminated by fluorescent light -- for many weeks?

Salehi: I reject such claims in the strongest terms. The two reporters are doing well. They are healthy and in good condition. They were even allowed to see their family members. If you compare our prisons with others in the region, you will see that we do our best to provide a humane penal system.

SPIEGEL: Hundreds of prominent Germans -- cabinet members like Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, top business executives like Deutsche Bank CEO Josef Ackermann and intellectuals like Nobel laureate in literature Herta Müller -- have called for the immediate release of the reporters. Does this make no impression on you at all?

Salehi: Independently of this campaign, we have pledged to act in conformity with our laws and the benevolence rooted in Islam. You can be sure that the two Germans are being treated fairly. I can promise you that. Our judiciary has proven to be very cooperative to date.

SPIEGEL: Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle apparently doesn't think so. He too signed the "Petition of the 100."

Salehi: Do you know that my German counterpart was the first to congratulate me on my appointment? In doing so, he also said: I don't expect any firm promises from you in the case of the two Germans. I thanked him for his understanding of my position and told him that I would as a result devote special attention to the case, so as, for example, to make the visit by the relatives possible during the Christmas season. I am pleased that it worked out, with the help of our courts.

SPIEGEL: Our compliments on your good intentions. The truth, however, is that the reporters were paraded and humiliated on Iranian television like political hostages.

Salehi: If that impression was created, I regret it. But it's incorrect.

SPIEGEL: All misunderstandings? The head of the justice department with jurisdiction, in the province of East Azerbaijan, has said that "these two Germans have come here to spy on us."

Salehi: The spokesman for our justice department in Tehran never said those words. You shouldn't assign significance to every remark.

SPIEGEL: Such statements reinforce the impression that hardliners are trying to use the journalists as pawns, as political negotiating tools.

Salehi: We don't toy with human lives.

SPIEGEL: That impression is certainly created when you detain reporters for months because of a visa violation. The two men aren't the first from the West to have attracted international attention as defendants in Iran.

Salehi: Let me tell you what attracts attention in our country: When the Americans arrest Iranian diplomats in Iraq, and when a young Iranian is arrested in Germany and extradited to the United States, merely because he was trying to sell pumps to Tehran that America claims could also be used in nuclear plants. Not even his family is allowed to visit him there.

SPIEGEL: You can't seriously be comparing these cases with that of the German journalists. With the help of your judiciary, a bizarre incident took place a few days ago: At a press conference Ashtiani, the woman who has been sentenced to death, threatened to file charges against the German reporters, claiming that they had brought "shame to me and my country."

Salehi: I didn't follow that appearance. But I am familiar with many agitating statements from Germany. I can only warn everyone involved not to worsen the situation. Stay away from insulting words and interpretations. We are doing our best to resolve the case quickly.

SPIEGEL: Before Christmas, it seemed as if the Germans were about to be released. Instead, a family visit on Christmas Eve didn't even materialize. What went wrong?

Salehi: It did work out in the end, but in Tabriz instead of Tehran. It was a humanitarian gesture on the part of our judiciary.

SPIEGEL: The hope was that when the reporters were transferred to Tehran, they would be released and would be able to await their trial as guests of the German embassy.

Salehi: We at the Foreign Ministry are trying to remove obstacles that could lead to delays and difficulties.

SPIEGEL: What can the Germans do?

Salehi: It could be a helpful gesture, for example, if the publishing house and main editorial office would admit that they made a mistake. And if they would apologize for it instead of distorting the issues, and make sure that this sort of thing doesn't happen again.

SPIEGEL: Do you have special expectations of the politicians in Berlin?

Salehi: My colleague Westerwelle and I have discussed this matter on the phone at least five times. The last time we spoke he thanked me for my involvement. Through SPIEGEL, I would like to cordially invite Mr. Westerwelle to Tehran. We should devote all our energy to expanding our relations. We should talk about everything, including this case -- with mutual respect.

SPIEGEL: When do you expect the case to be resolved: in months, weeks or days?

Salehi: In seconds, if it were up to me. But I can only promise to do everything I can to encourage our courts to act fairly and expeditiously.

SPIEGEL: The Koran calls upon the faithful to show compassion. Therefore, we too can call for the release of our colleagues in the name of the holy book of the Muslims.

Salehi: The Islamic Republic abides by the Koran and shows compassion to all living beings. Our revered Iranian poet Firdausi wrote: Torture not the poor ant, for it too has a soul and needs our protection. Please do not give up hope.


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belal123 01/13/2011
1. Iran justice system is superb Canada 's worst in the world
Re:Question is that You do not toy with Human Lives to Iran.My question is to Germany Canada UK USA Popes and archbishop Canada Toying past 40 yrs without giving income and without giving doctor right to my family while fighting case for Canada Iranian.Iran has Civil law Judge and Sharia Law Judge but Fatwa on Blasphemy was issued by a Religious Post doctoral specialist on religion Ayotollah Khomeini.Salman Rushdie book Title Satanic Verses which meant not only he denied Quran but Called Archangel Gabrial ''Chamcha''(favoritism angel).On the one hand he acknowledge the Allah's minister of verses as an angel from galaxy but called God (Allah) as Satan.Fatwa was issued.Asia Bibi has called Prophet a cruel thief swindler to his employer wife diseased who was also punished .She taunted women.perhaps inciting or inviting to quit Islam.This lead to reporting to Police of democracy. Police created a court case of Democracy.This nature of case was political religious judicial and remotely blasphemy.In trial Judge after hearing evidence sentenced Asia Bibi to death .Fatwa for blasphemy was needed.I am pretty sure Justice Naveed Iqbal must have consulted a religious expert in passing death sentence. Salman Taseer interferred with judicial system for political reason or his own disbelief and got killed. Mumtaz Qadir also interferred with judicial system and perhaps killed Taseer for Political reason after consulting a simple religious expert.Sherry Rahman tabled a motion.Iran understands Galaxy Religion very well.I myself explained in reinforce it I would like to Govt intellectuals too as I asked Canada UK or USA.Reliability on Iran religion is proven.As proven is Iranian Law. Following must be proven and should be approved by the world community.Let me pose a question of approval to Prez Obama Cameron Harper Merkel Pope Benedict and Archbishop as well as Ayotollahs if they agree with Islamic Info which says one day permission will not be given to Sun to rise from rast and set in the west.If G7 give permission to return indonesian islands nearby right now the sun will continue to rise from East and set in the west and if they don't sun will rise from west and set in the east by my analysis as I mentioned in my website.
belal123 01/13/2011
Re:It has been three months since two German journalists were detained in Iran -- and they still haven't been released. Our case is 40 yrs(480 months).The purpose of life is to studyraise family achieve enjoy god given life with purpose in pursuit for family life and happiness.The World must know what is on going in this world? Who is toying with human lives ? Past 40 years My German Wife I and UK born children(like white european) lived without even half income ID insurance (stolen).But we remained competitive(better than priveleged Canadians British).Can anyone survive 40 yrs with no income no welfare no education no funding but supporting govt programme (other way around) from nominal asset we create for survival at very high level of sacrifices?Can anyone compete?Can anyone remain in one piece as we did due to strategy of fraudulent Canada UK under indian supervision( perhaps) amid year round 24 hr surveillance.My mother and brothers perhaps never stepped out of the house for 3 decadeswithout seeing a doctor or dentist.My family member died without ID despite $43m (somewhere) with others enjoying free for 40 yrs(perhaps permanently).Ali Salehi studied Physics has PhD(MIT)and is Head of Nuke Prog at 61.I had BSc(Physics) Bsc (Eng) UK both by age 26 and was preparing for PhD by late 1960s.If we do not have access to democracy of G7 then G7 is fraud.If in 40 yrs I can compete with PhDs Nobel Laureate Engineers Scientists Lawyers doctors dentists in advanced high tech in ParticlesSpace Fibre optics Eng Heavy Industries pipelines Automotive then there was no reason for my family or I to be deprived basics of life all seprated away from any basics of life.Then world's biggest lawfirms and top most judges imposed 40 yrs to stay in court without income.Then Given task to provide their Govt expenditure using uneducated unmarried or by child labour.My question is if best of best of G7 will be unable to compete with 40 yrs ahead then the shame and disgrace should befall on Canada UK and their indian advisors.Many relatives from Germany to UK and overseas died while having wish for glimpse or for potential relationship alliance (as per customs).G7's global village is one sided strategy which ended up with desire to erase Islam their resources and followers (starting with my family)as their role model.I do not think we have adequate ID (traceable as we die one by one)as we dont have access to family wealth properties.This is the globalization of UK Canada as Role model.Would you kindly include our case with both Christians Muslims and other religion people. We believe in all religion and democracy education and all technologies businesses like other.The judges in Canada and London High courts are so abnormal.They justified above denial and even one judge wrote about a cripled injured worker who was almost dead person (that he had somarsaulted and escaped causing tension to white driver)i.e.I who was hit at 60mphand cripled for life .This came as a fake trial case in genuine building without records of Judge ID in Strand(London) in lieu of paying defaulted insurance case after 3 yrs.The lawyers had to simply collect and give to client.This they had decided to keep .This kind of lies are not new .They had also created Work man compensation insurance and swindling globally using my denial as Role Model. After I as a injured worker denied benefit and ID permanently with 24 hr surveillance (as simple as this).Imagine 40 yrs?
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