The Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) detained several foreigners, including the UK’s second most senior envoy in Tehran, for alleged acts of spying, Iran’s state TV announced on July 6.
The UK’s deputy ambassador Giles Whitaker and several other foreign nationals were detained after being caught taking soil samples in restricted areas.
“These spies were taking earth samples in Iran’s central desert where the Revolutionary Guards’ aerospace missile exercises were conducted,” state TV said.
The foreigners were reportedly arrested in the in the Shahdad desert in southeastern Kerman province. The state TV did not elaborate on when they were arrested or clarify if any of them is still under arrest.
“Whitaker was expelled from the city after apologizing (the authorities),” the TV report said.
The state TV aired drone footage of Giles Whitaker and his family in central Iran where the British diplomat appeared to be taking soil samples.
One of those detained was identified by state TV as the husband of Austria’s cultural attaché in Iran. Austrian officials have not commented on the issue yet. The TV also showed a picture of a third foreigner, identified as Maciej Walczak, a university professor in Poland, whom it said was visiting Iran as a tourist.
From its side UK denied the Iranian allegations. A spokesperson for the country’s Foreign Office said: “Reports of the arrest of a British diplomat in Iran are completely false”. British ambassador to Tehran Simon Shercliff also denied the allegations.
“These reports that our Deputy Ambassador is currently detained are very interesting… He actually left Iran last December, at the end of his posting,” the ambassador wrote on Twitter.
The Iranian announcement came amid a stall in the talks with the US on the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal. After a recent round of talks in Qatar, the US accused Iran of maximizing its demands. This was later denied by Tehran.
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