UK denies Iranian reports that a British diplomat was arrested by Tehran for spying

Britain’s Foreign Office on Wednesday denied a claim by Iranian state media that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards detained a British diplomat and other foreign officials accused of spying.

It was not immediately clear whether the diplomat and other foreigners were currently or previously detained. The country’s state-run IRNA news agency reported that the foreigners had been arrested, but did not say when or whether they were currently in custody.

News outlets said Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy, ​​Giles Whitaker, and other foreigners were facing ‘espionage’ charges after visiting various off-limits areas of the country as the Guard carried out ballistic missile tests. The semi-official Fars news agency, considered close to the Guard, claimed that Whitaker was expelled from the country after apologizing.

The UK Foreign Office has called reports that a diplomat was expelled “completely untrue”.

The reports come as the British public is transfixed by the political fortunes of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who faces mounting pressure to step down after defections from his cabinet.

Iranian media also identified Maciej Walczak, a Polish scientist from Kopernik University in Poland, as one of the foreigners charged. He also said he took soil, water and salt samples from a prohibited area.

Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy in Iran, Giles Whitaker. (Courtesy)

According to Reuters, another of those identified by Fars was the husband of the Austrian cultural attache in Iran.

BBC journalist and analyst Kian Sharifi tweeted that the Fars report accused Israel of using foreign nationals to help it make its case against Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency. ‘UN.

Talks between Iran and world powers to revive a 2015 nuclear deal have stalled for months. The so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action granted Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program to prevent it from being militarized.

After the Trump administration withdrew the United States from the JCPOA in 2018, Iran abandoned many of its own commitments and stepped up its nuclear program.

The indirect talks to salvage the deal and bring the United States back to it have stalled for months. The recent talks held in Doha, Qatar, between Iran and the United States have also not progressed.

Iran has in the past arrested dual nationals and people with Western ties, often on charges of espionage, and used them as bargaining chips in talks on other issues, such as nuclear negotiations.

On Wednesday, Iran accused a French couple detained in May while on vacation of having “undermined the security” of the country, the judicial authority said.

Cécile Kohler, head of the French teachers’ union, and her partner Jacques Paris were arrested in early May, while on Easter vacation in the Islamic Republic. They are accused by the authorities of seeking to incite workers’ protests.

The two men are “charged with association and collusion with the aim of undermining the security of the country”, judiciary spokesman Massoud Setayeshi told reporters in Tehran.

Iran said they were accused of “entering the country to sow chaos and destabilize society”.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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