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INTRO:  A court in Iran has released a German man once 
sentenced to death for having illegal sex with an 
Iranian woman.  The court fined the man for insulting 
a prison guard and says he is free to leave the 
country, ending a two-year ordeal.  Correspondent 
Scott Bobb has details from our Middle East Bureau in 
TEXT:  German businessman Helmut Hofer told reporters 
in Tehran that he is happy and plans to return home 
Friday.  His lawyer said the businessman was given 
back his passport and told he could leave the country 
after paying a fine for his latest conviction.  Mr. 
Hofer subsequently left the court building accompanied 
by German diplomats.
Mr. Hofer had been free on bail since last month.  He 
spent most of the past two-years in prison after being 
sentenced to death for having an affair with an 
unmarried Iranian woman.  Such an act is punishable by 
death in Iran for a non-Muslim, but Mr. Hofer pleaded 
he had converted to Islam and the Supreme Court one-
year ago ordered a new trial.
He was subsequently convicted of a lesser charge and 
paid a fine.
The businessman was detained again; first for having 
what were termed suspicious contacts, and subsequently 
for insulting a prison guard.
The German Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying 
it is pleased with the court's decision.
The conclusion of the Hofer case followed by one-day 
the conviction by a court in Berlin of an Iranian 
citizen charged with spying on Iranian dissidents in 
Germany.  Hamid Khorsand received a suspended sentence 
for espionage, which his lawyer said would be 
The Iranian government has denied the Hofer case was 
linked in any way to the case in Germany.  
Nevertheless, the German government made it clear that 
better relations between the two governments hinged on 
a satisfactory resolution of the charges against its 
The Hofer case hurt relations with Germany as Iranian 
ties to other European governments improved.  Iranian 
President Mohamed Khatami made official visits to 
Italy and France this past year.  He reportedly has 
been invited to visit Germany.   (SIGNED)
20-Jan-2000 12:20 PM EDT (20-Jan-2000 1720 UTC)
Source: Voice of America

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