Iran TV said several foreigners, a British diplomat, had been arrested for espionage

A picture of the Iranian flag in front of the Iranian Foreign Ministry building in Tehran, November 23, 2009. REUTERS/Morteza Nikobazel

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DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have detained several foreigners, including Britain’s second-largest envoy, in Tehran for alleged espionage such as taking soil samples in restricted areas, state TV reported on Wednesday.

She did not say when they were arrested or if they were still in detention. Britain said the reports were “completely false”.

State television said that these spies were taking samples from the ground in the Iranian central desert, where the Revolutionary Guards’ maneuvers with satellite missiles were conducted.

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Iranian state television showed what it said were footage of Giles Whitaker and his family in central Iran, where the British diplomat appeared to be taking samples from the ground. The television said he was near an area where the Revolutionary Guards were conducting a missile test.

“Whittaker was expelled from the city after he (authorities) apologized,” the television report said.

But a British Foreign Office spokesman said: “Reports of the arrest of a British diplomat in Iran are completely false.” Read more

Samuel Heath, UK spokesperson for the US tweeted: “He (Whitacker) is not in Iran anymore!”

State TV reported that one of the detainees is the husband of the Austrian cultural attache in Iran. It was not immediately possible to contact Austrian officials to comment on the matter.

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The television also showed a picture of a third foreigner known as Maciej Walchack, a university professor in Poland, who said he was visiting Iran as a tourist.

The TV report aired footage allegedly showing Walchuck and three of his colleagues collecting land samples in another area after visiting Iran on a science exchange program. She said that the sample collection also coincided with a missile test in Kerman Province, southern Iran.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have arrested dozens of dual nationals and foreigners in recent years, mostly on espionage and security charges.

Rights groups have accused the Islamic Republic of trying to win concessions from other countries through arrests on possibly trumped-up security charges. Tehran denies arresting people for political reasons.

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Written by Parisa Hafezi Editing by Sandra Mahler

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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