Britain’s ambassador to Iran was arrested in Tehran during protests outside a university, the UK Foreign office has said.
In a statement the UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab, said the arrest of Rob Macaire was a “flagrant violation of international law’’.
He was detained for more than an hour before being released according to the Iranian Tasnim news agency.
He is said to have been one of several held on suspicion of organizing, provoking and directing radical actions.
RT reports: The diplomat was briefly detained late on Saturday outside of Amirkabir University in Tehran, as part of a group of people attending a chaotic vigil – held for the victims of the Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 crash – which turned into an anti-government rally. According to Iranian state media, the official was seeking “to organize, instigate and direct some radical and destructive actions.”
While many people brought candles and flowers to the event, seeking to mourn the dead, some showed up with anti-government banners and began chanting slogans, demanding “prosecutions and constitutional changes.” The event escalated into clashes between the police and protesters, who were ultimately dispersed.
The ambassador, however, maintains that he was only seeking to attend the vigil. The Ukrainian plane was accidentally downed by Iranian air defenses on Wednesday after the passenger jet was mistaken for an incoming cruise missile.
“Thanks for the many goodwill messages. Can confirm I wasn’t taking part in any demonstrations! Went to an event advertised as a vigil for victims of #PS752 tragedy,” the diplomat tweeted earlier on Sunday, insisting that he was detained half an hour after he left the event.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called the incident a “flagrant violation of international law,” insisting that Macaire was detained without any “grounds or explanation.” Commenting on the issue, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell called for “de-escalation and space for diplomacy”.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the British ambassador was arrested “because of his participation in an illegal gathering,” but he was released “due to his diplomatic immunity and after confirming his identity”. The country´s Deputy FM Seyed Abbas Araghchi explained in a tweet that he was deeply surprised the arrested man turned to be the UK ambassador.