On espionage allegations by Iranian military authorities, a British senior envoy was arrested along with two foreigners
The UK’s second-most senior diplomat in Tehran is reportedly among three foreigners who have been arrested by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) for alleged espionage activities.
Giles Whitaker is the deputy chief of UK embassy Tehran. He was accused, as per Iranian state television, of taking soil samples from a restricted location. Video footage released by the IRGC purports to show the veteran envoy, who was accompanied by family members, gathering soil samples in Iran’s central desert, where missile exercises were being conducted.
Whitaker was reported to have apologized and been expelled. The media report didn’t specify whether he and the other suspects are still under arrest. The other detained men were identified as the husband of Austria’s cultural attaché in Iran and Maciej Walczak, a Polish university professor who was visiting the country under a scientific exchange program.
The IRGC’s footage purported to show Walczak and three colleagues collecting soil samples in a restricted area of Kerman province, where another missile test was being conducted. According to Iranian broadcaster, this Polish professor hails from Nicolaus Copernicus University. “associated with the Zionist regime.”
This comes amid deadlock in talks to renew the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal, which Donald Trump cancelled in 2018. Under the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – signed by Iran, the US, Russia, China, the UK, France and Germany – Tehran agreed to limitations preventing nuclear weapons development in exchange for sanctions relief.
Wednesday’s Iranian media report suggested that the alleged spies were trying to help build a new case on “military aspects of Iran’s file in the International Atomic Energy Agency.”
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Since November 2018, Whitaker is the deputy head of mission in Tehran at British Embassy. Since November 2018, Whitaker is the deputy head of mission for Britain’s embassy in Tehran. His three-decade long career as a British government official has seen him work at embassies all over the world, including in Berlin, Islamabad, and Moscow. He also worked at NATO Headquarters in Brussels.
In recent years, the IRGC has taken dozens of foreigners into custody on espionage-related charges. Rob Macaire, then UK ambassador to Iran, was apprehended in January 2020 for allegedly inciting protests over the Iranian military’s accidental downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet.