Europe locks horns with Iran over hanging

BRUSSELS, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- The European Union and the Netherlands are on a confrontation course with Iran over the hanging of a Dutch-Iranian woman for drug trafficking.

Catherine Ashton, the European Union's top foreign policy official, condemned Iran's execution of 46-year-old Zahra Bahrami and deplored that officials in Tehran failed to grant her a "fair and transparent judicial process," Ashton's spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said Monday in Brussels.


Ashton wants Iran to "halt all pending executions immediately," Kocijancic said.

"The issue of human rights in Iran … will in the future be also a special point on the agenda of the EU foreign affairs council," the spokeswoman added, suggesting that the worsening human rights situation in the Islamic Republic could turn into another contentious issue with Iran, which has been at odds with the West over its nuclear program.

The comments come on the heels of a Dutch decision to freeze contacts with Tehran over the execution of Bahrami, an Iranian-born Dutch citizen.

Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal denounced Saturday's hanging as an act committed by "a barbaric regime."

Tehran reacted Sunday by summoning Cees Kole, the Dutch ambassador in Tehran, urging him to relay the message not to interfere with Iran's internal affairs.


Bahrami was reportedly arrested in December 2009 after joining anti-government protests during a visit to Iran. She was charged of drug trafficking. The Iranian prosecutor's office said Bahrami was a member of an international drug ring, adding that a search of her house uncovered 450 grams of cocaine and 420 grams of opium, Iran's official Farsi news agency reports.

In an interview with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Bahrami's daughter said her mother told her she was forced to confess to the drug charges after her arrest.

On Friday, Iranian diplomats had told their Dutch colleagues that not all legal avenues had run their course and that there was hope for the death penalty wouldn't be enforced. RIA Novosti reports that not even Bahrami's lawyer knew that she would be hanged a day later.

"I am shocked. I was absolutely not informed about this," said attorney Jinoos Sharif Razi. "They should have informed her lawyer of the execution but I had no idea. I don't know what to say, just that I am shocked."

The Netherlands had tried to get consular access to the woman but Iranian authorities, who don't recognize dual citizenship, denied that. The Dutch Foreign Ministry has since advised Iranians with a Dutch-issued passport not to travel to Iran.


The wave of executions in Iran -- more than 70 prisoners have been put to death since the beginning of this year, Amnesty International reports -- has alarmed Western politicians and human rights groups.

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