February 10, 2011 | Jerusalem Post

Holland Pulls Ambassador from Teheran over Hanging

BERLIN – The Netherlands froze diplomatic relations with Iran last month because of the execution of Zahra Bahrami a Dutch-Iranian woman, and on Monday, The Hague recalled its ambassador to Teheran.

“What happened between that moment [two days before the hanging, when Bahrami saw her mother] and the moment of execution we do not know.

We have not found that out. We support the family at every level in their effort to obtain the body to either bury her there or get it repatriated,” Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal, who is currently in Israel, said last week.

Rosenthal termed the hanging of the 45-year-old Bahrami the “shocking act of a barbaric regime.”

Bahrami traveled to Iran in 2009 and was arrested while participating in demonstrations against the disputed presidential election. Prosecutors initially said she belonged to the militant monarchist group Kingdom Assembly of Iran, and accused her with setting up an anti-regime organization and spreading anti-regime propaganda. They then charged her with drug trafficking, and she was hanged on January 31.

According to the widely read Iranian website Balatarin, Bahrami “was not hanged but rather she was martyred under torture (rape). The regime hastily announced that it had hanged her without notifying her lawyer and her family members and because of the signs of torture, it refuses to hand in her body.”

The US and the EU condemned the execution. Iran has implemented a wave of reportedly extra-judicial executions.

The Islamic Republic has hanged 67 people since the beginning of 2011, according to an AFP survey.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said on Tuesday that the Netherlands was making “a human rights issue out of an indefensible drug case and applying political pressure” on his country.

“The behavior of these statesmen is turning their countries into a sanctuary for criminals, smugglers and terrorists,” Mehmanparast said.

The Dutch government appears to be the first EU country to recall its top diplomat to Iran due to human rights violations. During the protests against the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009, British Embassy workers and a French citizen were arrested and incarcerated, but the French and British governments chose not to recall their ambassadors. The arrest of two German reporters in October did not prompt Berlin to take strong diplomatic action against Teheran.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, along with his Italian counterpart, Franco Frattini, was the first top EU diplomat last week to congratulate Iran’s newly appointed Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, according to the Iranian ISNA news service. Salehi has been designated by the EU as a sanctioned official because of his work on Teheran’s nuclear program. He is barred from travel to the EU.

A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry in Berlin wrote The Jerusalem Post by email on Tuesday, “The German government is making strong efforts to bring back the detained German journalists safe and quickly to Germany. In this regard, talks also take place between Foreign Minister Westerwelle and his Iranian counterpart.”

Critics accuse the German foreign minister of a soft posture toward Iran because of the countries’ roughly 4 billion euro annual trade relationship.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of 11 US senators issued a toughly worded letter to Westerwelle last week, urging the German government to immediately close Iran’s main financial conduit in Europe – the Hamburg-based European- Iranian Trade Bank AG (EIH).

The US placed EIH under sanctions because of its involvement in Teheran’s nuclear and missile programs.

“EIH is one of Iran’s few remaining access points to the European financial system,” the letter says. “The threat of a nuclear-armed Iran is undeniable and we must make sanctions as strong as possible to deny Iran the economic means to develop those weapons.”

The letter also noted “The bank has and continues to conduct transactions on behalf of entities under US and EU sanctions, including Bank Mellat, a designated supporter of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran… Companies that continue to conduct trade with Iran via EIH also face potential sanctions in the US, including restrictions on exports to the US and access to US capital markets.”

A spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry wrote the Post by e-mail, saying “EIH stands under strict control of the German bank authorities. We pursue all indications of relevant proliferation activity. This affects all companies in Germany, including EIH.”

A spokesman for the American Embassy in Berlin told the Post, “No comment. The senators’ letter speaks for itself.”