Iran: 5 British diplomats released

Iran, after arresting 8 or 9 (the numbers are unclear) British Embassy staff in Tehran yesterday on the grounds of playing a role in post election demonstrations, released 5 of them today. The other three are still being interrogated.

The arrests come after unrest in Iran due to the disputed victory of hard-line president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the Iranian elections. After the June 12 elections, faced with doubts of rigging in the vote count, many Iranians calling for a re-election have taken to the streets in protest and demonstrations, many of which end in violence.

The Ahmadinejad administration has blamed foreign governments, namely the British and American, for ‘meddling’ with Iranian politics and sparking the post election conflict.

Parviz Sarvari an Iranian MP stated that “the nation’s tolerance for Britain’s hidden and apparent policy of interference is over.” Other Iranian diplomats have accused the British embassy of working undercover during the protests and pushing its own agenda.

The Fars News Agency reported that the arrested group of officials “played an active role in provoking recent unrest.” British Foreign Secretary David Miliband calling for an immediate release of prisoners said that the arrests were ‘harassment and intimidation’ and that the claims were “wholly without foundation.” He also showed concern over the numbers of detained which “are changing by the hour.”

Last weeks, two British diplomats had been expelled from Iran, in retaliation to which Britain expelled two Iranian diplomats, after the withdrawal of family members of British diplomats from Iranian soil. The EU after a meeting in Corfu has promised a “strong and collective response” to any more harassment in Iran. It will be interesting to see where this diplomatic tit-for-tat ends and what state it leaves the both countries in.