Netherlands Freezes Contacts with Iran over Hanging of Dutch Woman

The Dutch government said Saturday it was freezing its contacts with Iran, decrying the hanging of an Iranian-Dutch woman in the Islamic republic as an "act committed by a barbarous regime."

"The Netherlands has decided to freeze all contacts with Iran" after obtaining confirmation of Zahra Bahrami's execution from Iran's ambassador to the Netherlands, foreign ministry spokesman Bengt van Loosdrecht told Agence France Presse.

"This concerns all official contacts between diplomats and civil servants," he said, adding that Dutch citizens of Iranian background were also advised to stay away from Iran.

Iran hanged Bahrami, a 46-year-old Iranian-born naturalized Dutch citizen, on Saturday for drug smuggling after initially arresting her for anti-government protests, the Tehran prosecutor's office said.

Her execution 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.

Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal "was profoundly shocked by the news, he called it an act committed by a barbarous regime," the spokesman said.

"We didn't expect it at all," van Loosdrecht said, noting Iran's ambassador had "guaranteed" 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 Netherlands had been seeking details about Bahrami's case and had accused Iranian authorities of refusing the Dutch embassy access to her because they did not recognize her dual nationality.

The government "expresses its sympathy and its condolences" to Bahrami's family, van Loosdrecht 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.

Dutch citizens of Iranian background are also advised not to travel to Iran "given there are risks of being arrested and the sentences that are pronounced are very severe," he said.