IRAN: Iranian state television, namely the Fars news agency, reported on Wednesday that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) have detained several foreign nationals, including Britain’s second most senior envoy in Tehran, on accusatory charges of spying such as taking soil samples from a restricted area of the desert.
The report detailed that the area was quite close to the site where IRGC had earlier conducted missile exercises, which is why it ignited suspicions of espionage. The detainees included the UK deputy ambassador, who will be eventually deported, along with his family, in the aftermath of this event.
The news agency did not elucidate on the details of their suspected crimes or whether they were explicitly under arrest. Britain however, completely denied such reports as “completely false”.
“These spies were taking earth samples in Iran’s central desert where the Revolutionary Guards’ aerospace missile exercises were conducted,” state TV noted. News channels flourished with footage of Giles Whitaker and his family in central Iran where the British diplomat appeared to be collecting ground samples. The TV said Whitaker was near an area where missile activities were frequently tested by the Guards.
While Whitaker was expelled from the city after profusely apologising to the authorities, the UK government launched a counterattack. A spokesperson for Britain’s foreign office said, “Reports of the arrest of a British diplomat in Iran are completely false.” Samuel Heath, the UK spokesperson to the US, tweeted: “He (Whitaker) is not even posted in Iran anymore!”
Besides Whitaker, another foreign national, identified as the husband of Austria’s cultural attaché in Iran, was detained. Austrian officials, however, were not immediately available to comment on this matter.
Another detainee was Maciej Walczak, a Polish university professor visiting the country as a tourist. Walczak’s paleontological activities were also centred around Iran’s sensitive missile zones, in the southern Kerman province.
While Iran sports a track record for arresting dozens of foreign nationals on charges of espionage and security breaches, it has consistently denied allegations of political sycophants.