Reporter makes claim of torture in Iran

A GERMAN reporter claims he was beaten by guards during five months of imprisonment in Iran and that he heard constant, “horrible cries” of other inmates being tortured.

In the first public comment since being freed a year ago, Marcus Hellwig yesterday told Bild am Sonntag he was beaten and interrogated during the first ten “brutal” days in captivity until a German diplomat intervened.

“Sometimes they claimed that I was a spy, then allegedly a terrorist,” he was quoted as saying. “They wanted to unsettle me with their never-ending questioning, wanted to put me under psychological pressure and create an ambiance of fear.”

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Hellwig and photographer Jens Koch – both working for Bild am Sonntag – entered Iran on tourist visas and were detained in October 2010 after interviewing the son of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, an Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery.

They were freed a year ago after German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle travelled to Tehran for a meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Mr Hellwig said that guards, in an apparent move to frighten him, took him “to a torture cell to show me what they were using there to torture people”.

“I was beaten. And there were some other things, but I do not want to talk about them,” he said.

Mr Hellwig told the newspaper another torture cell was located near where he and Koch were being held and that they heard its victims throughout the day. “The cries were horrible,” the reporter said.

He added that he and the photographer knew that reporting from Iran with tourist visas “would not be without danger, but I had hoped to minimise the risk with good preparation”.