TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iranian media reported Wednesday that the country’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guards accused the British deputy ambassador and other foreigners in the country of “espionage” and of taking soil samples from restricted military areas.
It was not immediately clear whether the diplomat and other foreigners were detained. The country’s state-run Islamic Republic of Iran News Agency reported that the foreigners had been arrested, but did not say when or if they were currently in custody.
Giles Whitaker, deputy head of the British embassy in China, and other foreigners are facing “espionage” charges after they visited several restricted areas in the country during a ballistic missile test by the British Guard, the news outlet said. Whitaker was deported after an apology, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency, believed to be close to the Guard.
The UK Foreign Office had no immediate comment. The reports come as the British public is appalled by the political fortunes of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who faces mounting pressure to step down following a cabinet defection.
Iranian media also pointed to Polish scientist Maciej Walczak of the University of Kopernik in Poland as one of the foreigners accused. It also said he took samples of soil, water and salt from the exclusion zone.
Iran has in the past arrested dual nationals and people with ties to Western countries on espionage charges and used them as bargaining chips in negotiations on other issues such as nuclear talks.
Negotiations to revive Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers have stalled for months. Recent efforts to break the deadlock between U.S. and Iranian negotiators ended last week without a breakthrough in Doha.