TEHRAN, Iran (Associated Press) – Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have accused the UK’s deputy ambassador and other foreigners in the country of “espionage” and taking soil samples from prohibited military areas, Iranian media reported on Wednesday.
It was not immediately clear whether the diplomat and other foreigners had been arrested. The country’s state news agency IRNA reported that the foreigners had been arrested, but did not say when or if they were currently in custody. Iranian state television broadcast footage purporting to show aliens collecting land samples in restricted areas.
News sources said the British embassy’s deputy chief of mission, Giles Whitaker, and other foreigners faced “espionage” charges after visiting various restricted areas in the country while the guards were conducting ballistic missile tests.
The semi-official Fars news agency, believed to be close to the guards, claimed Whitaker was expelled from the city after an apology to the authorities.
There was no immediate comment from the British Foreign Office on the news of his detention. The reports come as the British public is dumbfounded by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s political fortunesWho is facing mounting pressure to step down after splits from his government.
Iranian media also identified Maciej Walchack, a Polish scientist at Copernicus University in Poland, as one of the accused foreigners. He similarly said he took samples of soil, water and salt from a restricted area while testing a missile in the south of the country.
The report added that the Revolutionary Guards’ intelligence unit also detained the husband of the Austrian cultural attache in Iran after he took soil samples in northeastern Iran.
Iran has in the past arrested dual nationals and those with ties to the West, often on widely criticized espionage charges, and used them as bargaining chips in talks on other issues, such as nuclear negotiations. Tehran denies using detainees for political purposes.
Talks to revive Tehran’s shattered nuclear deal with world powers have stalled for months. Recent efforts to break the deadlock between US and Iranian negotiators ended without a breakthrough in Doha last week.