Dominic Raab condemns Iran's arrest of UK ambassador

12 January 2020, 08:57

Mr Raab (L) condemned the arrest of Mr Macaire (R)
Mr Raab (L) condemned the arrest of Mr Macaire (R). Picture: PA / Twitter
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has warned Iran of becoming an international "pariah" following the arrest of the British ambassador.

Mr Raab called the arrest a "flagrant violation" of international law after the UK ambassador to Iran was held by authorities for over an hour.

Rob Macaire was arrested on suspicion of organising, provoking and directing radical actions before being released.

He attended an event at the Amir Kabir University that was "advertised as a vigil for victims" of the Ukrainian Airlines tragedy, which soon turned into a demonstration.

Mr Macaire confirmed he was arrested half an hour after leaving, an act he described as "illegal".

He wrote on Twitter: "Thanks for the many goodwill messages. Can confirm I wasn’t taking part in any demonstrations! Went to an event advertised as a vigil for victims of #PS752 tragedy.

"Normal to want to pay respects- some of victims were British. I left after 5 mins, when some started chanting.

"Detained half an hour after leaving the area. Arresting diplomats is of course illegal, in all countries."

Iran's foreign minister Seyed Abbas Araghchi later also used social media to suggest the arrest was a mistake.

He wrote: "He (Mr Macaire) wasn't detained, but arrested as unknown foreigner in an illegal gathering. When police informed me a man's arrested who claims to be UK Amb, I said IMPOSSIBLE!

"Only after my phone conversation with him I identified, out of big surprise, that it's him. 15 min later he was free.

The foreign secretary previously said in a statement: "The arrest of our ambassador in Tehran without grounds or explanation is a flagrant violation of international law. The Iranian government is at a crossroads moment.

"It can continue its march towards pariah status with all the political and economic isolation that entails, or take steps to de-escalate tensions and engage in a diplomatic path forwards."

Mr Macaire was arrested on his way back to the British embassy and was released after a number of urgent calls to the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

A wave of demonstrations broke out across the country in response to the accidental downing of a Ukrainian airliner by Iranian missiles shortly after take off from Tehran airport.

Demonstrations swept across Tehran and the rest of the country
Demonstrations swept across Tehran and the rest of the country. Picture: PA

In an article for The Sunday Telegraph, written before Mr Macaire's arrest, Mr Raab urged Iran to "come in from the cold" and resolve its differences with the West peacefully.

Following the dramatic events of the past fortnight, he said the "diplomatic door has been left ajar" for the regime in Tehran to end the isolation "choking" its economy.

He said Britain and its European allies still hope to revive the Iran nuclear deal, despite US President Donald Trump's insistence that it is dead.

However he said the Iranians must end their pursuit of nuclear weapons, drop their support for terrorism, and release the foreign nationals held as "pawns in its nefarious diplomatic game."