x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Iran to free British diplomat

Iran is due to free on bail a local British embassy staffer, who was among a group of nine arrested in post-election unrest in June.

Iran is due today to free on bail a local British embassy staffer, who was among a group of nine arrested in post-election unrest in June, his lawyer said. "Hossein Rassam will be freed on bail today after 5pm," lawyer Abdolsamad Khoramshahi said. "A bail of one billion rials (Dh369,000) has been paid" to free Mr Rassam, the lawyer added. Mr Rassam, a senior political analyst at the British embassy, was arrested on June 27, along with eight other embassy staffers who have since been released.

"I haven't seen his file yet but ... as far as I know he has been charged with action against national security," and would be tried at an unspecified date, Mr Khoramshahi said. Tehran has also expelled two British diplomats since the disputed June 12 vote that saw the re-election of the president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, with Britain expelling two Iranian diplomats in a tit-for-tat measure. The senior Iranian cleric Ahmad Jannati said on July 3 that some of the embassy staff would be put on trial over the unrest, but did not say how many.

Mr Jannati, the head of Iran's powerful Guardians Council, charged that the country's "enemies" had been plotting a "velvet revolution" in the Islamic republic. Iran has repeatedly accused the West, and Britain in particular, of stoking unrest and seeking to destabilise the country in the wake of the June election. The arrest of the embassy staff strained already tense ties between Tehran and London.

British prime minister Gordon Brown has warned Iran that the European Union was ready to act in response to the embassy staff detentions and expulsion of diplomats. "The Iranian regime must be clear that if this action continues and we are forced to act, we will act together with our European partners," Mr Brown said on July 6. * AFP