TEHRAN: The Netherlands has frozen contacts with Iran after Tehran hanged an Iranian-Dutch woman for drug smuggling, having initially arrested her for taking part in anti-government protests.
Zahra Bahrami’s execution Saturday brings the total number of people hanged in Iran so far this year to 66 – on average more than two a day – according to an AFP tally based on media reports.
“A drug trafficker named Zahra Bahrami, daughter of Ali, was hanged early on Saturday morning after she was convicted of selling and possessing drugs,” the Tehran prosecutor’s office said.
Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal “was profoundly shocked by the news, he called it an act committed by a barbarous regime,” foreign ministry spokesman Bengt van Loosdrecht told AFP.
“The Netherlands has decided to freeze all contacts with Iran” after obtaining confirmation of Bahrami’s execution from Iran’s ambassador to the Netherlands Kazem Gharib Abadi, the ministry spokesman said.
“This concerns all official contacts between diplomats and civil servants,” he added.
Bahrami, a 46-year-old Iranian-born naturalised Dutch citizen, was reportedly arrested in December 2009 after joining a protest against the government while visiting relatives in the Islamic republic.
The prosecutor’s office confirmed on Saturday that she had been arrested for “security crimes.” But elaborating on the drug smuggling charge, the office said Bahrami had used her Dutch connections to bring narcotics into Iran.
“The convict, a member of an international drug gang, smuggled cocaine to Iran using her Dutch connections and had twice shipped and distributed cocaine inside the country,” it said.
During a search of her house, authorities found 450 grams of cocaine and 420 grams of opium, the prosecutor’s office said. Investigations revealed she had sold 150 grams of cocaine in Iran, it added.
“The revolutionary court sentenced her to death for possessing 450 grams of cocaine and participating in the selling of 150 grams of cocaine,” it said.
The Dutch government said it was “surprised” by Bahrami’s execution.
“We didn’t expect it at all,” foreign ministry spokesman van Loosdrecht said, noting Iran’s ambassador had “certified” to Dutch authorities on Friday that “all judicial means had not yet been exhausted.”
Of the freeze in bilateral contacts, “it will be up to us to decide whether (Iranian officials) can or cannot meet the person they wish to meet,” he said.
The Dutch authorities expressed their sympathy and condolences to Bahrami’s family, he said.
“We’re still in contact with her family in Tehran, that’s the reason why we wish to keep our ambassador in Tehran,” he added.
The Netherlands had been seeking details about Bahrami’s case and had accused Iranian officials of refusing the Dutch embassy access to her because they did not recognise her dual nationality.
But a statement from the Iranian embassy in the Netherlands said the affair was an “internal issue and should have no impact on the mutual relations between the two nations.”
“We all regret the fact that an Iranian citizen has committed a crime that resulted in the capital punishment,” said the statement.
The embassy also said she had been travelling using Dutch, Iranian and Spanish passports, all of which had different personal information.
And it confirmed that Iran did not recognise dual nationality for its nationals. That meant her “other nationality did not affect her judicial case in Iran,” said the statement.
Dutch broadcaster Radio Netherlands Worldwide, quoting Bahrami's daughter Banafsheh Najebpour, reported earlier this month that Bahrami was awaiting trial in a second capital case. In it, she had been accused of being in an armed opposition group.
There has been a spike in hangings this year in Iran, especially of convicted drug smugglers.
Last Monday, Iran carried out the first executions of two political activists detained in street protests after the disputed presidential poll of 2009.
Jafar Kazemi and Mohammad Ali Hajaghaei, members of the outlawed People’s Mujahedeen of Iran, were hanged despite US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging their release.
The executions have drawn criticism from Catherine Ashton, Europe’s chief diplomat, who is leading talks between world powers and Iran over Tehran's controversial nuclear programme.
Along with China, Saudi Arabia and the United States, Iran has one of the highest numbers of executions each year: adultery, murder, drug trafficking and other major crimes are all punishable by death.