Sweden questions Iran envoy over cosmetics firm arrests

today Aug 25, 2010
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STOCKHOLM, Aug 25, 2010 AFP © - Swedish foreign ministry officials met with Iran's ambassador in Stockholm over the shutdown of cosmetics firm Oriflame's Tehran office and the arrest of five of its employees there, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.


"We met him yesterday and we raised both the Oriflame affair and also the question of Sakineh (Mohammadi-Ashtiani), the woman threatened with stoning," foreign ministry spokeswoman Cecilia Julin told AFP.

Iranian authorities on Monday arrested five people working for Oriflame, a Swedish direct-sales cosmetics company, and closed its Tehran office amid reported allegations in Iran that it was running a massive pyramid scheme.

One of those detained is a dual Swedish-Iranian national whose fate was discussed when Iranian ambassador Rasoul Eslami came to the Swedish foreign ministry on Tuesday, Julin said.

She added the matter was being dealt with by Sweden's ambassador in Tehran, who "is in contact with the Iranian foreign ministry and other authorities."

Oriflame said Monday it had received no explanations from Iranian authorities about the closure and arrests, but believed they may be linked to its business model.

"Our business model is to sell cosmetics and give 40,000 Iranians, mainly women, a possibility to earn money through direct sales," the company's chief financial officer Gabriel Bennet told AFP, adding any reference to a pyramid scheme was "ridiculous."

Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani, a 43-year-old mother, was sentenced to death by stoning by an Iranian court.

Iranian officials maintain she was handed the stoning sentence for adultery and for being an accomplice in her husband's murder.

Western nations and human rights groups have come out strongly against the stoning sentence and warned that her execution is imminent.

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