Status: 07/07/2022 6:48 p.m
According to Iranian state media, foreign diplomats have been arrested on suspicion of espionage – but Great Britain and Austria deny this. Poland, on the other hand, confirms the arrest of a scientist.
Iranian state media have caused confusion with reports of the arrest of several foreigners on suspicion of espionage. While Great Britain and Austria rejected corresponding reports, the Polish government confirmed the arrest of a Polish scientist. The Foreign Ministry in Warsaw said Iran had already arrested a “highly respected scientist” in September. The government is providing the man with consular assistance and is working towards his release. No further details were given.
Iranian media on Wednesday named Polish scientist Maciej Walczak of Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń as part of a string of foreigners accused of espionage in the country. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards had accused several Europeans of spying and taking soil samples in military restricted zones in the Iranian desert while the Revolutionary Guards were conducting missile tests. The state-run Irna news agency reported that the foreigners had been arrested, but did not say when or if they were still in custody.
Denials from Vienna and London
A British diplomat, identified by state television as Deputy Head of the Embassy Giles Whitaker, was reportedly among those arrested. The British Foreign Office has now denied this. “Reports of the arrest of a British diplomat in Iran are completely false,” a ministry spokesman said, according to the British news agency PA. British Ambassador Simon Shercliff described the Iranian media reports of Whitaker’s arrest as “very interesting”. On Twitter, he pointed out that the diplomat had already left the country in December at the end of his posting.
The semi-official Fars news agency, which is said to be close to the Revolutionary Guards, reported that Whitaker had visited the restricted military zone while touring the country with his family as a tourist. State television broadcast footage allegedly showing him taking photos and taking soil samples at a missile training area.
Iran had also reported the arrest of the husband of the Austrian cultural attaché – which the government in Vienna has now also denied. No employees or their family members were arrested, it said. “All employees and relatives on site are doing well,” said a spokeswoman for the Austrian Foreign Ministry.
Multiple arrests in the past
Tensions between Iran and the West have increased since the US unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal under then-President Donald Trump. Washington reintroduced sanctions against Iran, which in turn backed away from its obligations under the agreement.
Iran has repeatedly arrested people with dual citizenship or with Western connections, often on charges of espionage, and used them as bargaining chips in talks, such as those related to nuclear negotiations. Talks about reviving the nuclear deal with Iran have been deadlocked for months.
Iran arrests foreign diplomats
Karin Senz, ARD Istanbul, 7/7/2022 8:46 p.m