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DATE=1/20/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=GERMAN / IRAN (L) NUMBER=2-258258 BYLINE=SCOTT BOBB DATELINE=CAIRO CONTENT= VOICED AT: 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 Cairo. 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 appealed. 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 citizen. 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) NEB/SB/GE/RAE 20-Jan-2000 12:20 PM EDT (20-Jan-2000 1720 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .