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Iran crisis: Effigy of UK ambassador burned in Tehran

Envoy denies accusations of taking part in anti-government rally

Zoe Tidman
Wednesday 15 January 2020 10:42 GMT
Effigy of UK ambassador to Iran set on fire in Tehran

A cardboard cutout of the UK’s ambassador to Iran has been set on fire by protesters following a row over his arrest in his host country.

A life-size effigy of Rob Macaire burned alongside a Union Jack outside the University of Tehran after the diplomat was accused of taking part in an anti-government protest.

Tensions between Iran and the UK escalated when authorities briefly detained Mr Macaire over the weekend and the foreign ministry called him to explain his “illegal and inappropriate presence” at a demonstration on his release.

Iran’s judiciary said they consider Mr Macaire a “persona non grata” for not respecting the nation’s laws, according to local media reports.

Spokesman Gholam Hossein Esmaeili said: “The public expect the person to be expelled and that is also what international law calls for.”

Dozens of hardliners chanted “death to Britain” outside the UK embassy in Tehran following the allegations the envoy took part in an anti-government protest.

Mr Macaire claimed he was at vigil for the 176 victims of a plane crash over Iran – which the country said it accidently shot down – when demonstrations broke out.

The ambassador tweeted: “Normal to want to pay respects – some of victims were British. I left after five mins, when some started chanting.”

He added: “Detained half an hour after leaving the area. Arresting diplomats is of course illegal, in all countries.”

The British foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, called the ambassador’s detention – during which he was held for around three hours – a “flagrant violation” of international law.

The rising diplomatic tensions came as the UK, France and Germany accused Tehran of breaching the terms of the Iran nuclear deal, which the US pulled out of last year.

Protesters outside the university in the capital

also burned the American flag amid friction between the two countries following the assassination of Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani, in a US airstrike .

Iran retaliated with missile strikes on a military base in Iraq housing US troops and with threats of “harsher revenge”.

Additional reporting by agencies

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