Protesters chant "Death to England" outside UK embassy in Iran

12 January 2020, 16:01

Protest in Tehran against the United Kingdom
Protest in Tehran against the United Kingdom. Picture: Getty
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Hundreds of hard-line militia members have gathered outside the British Embassy in Iran chanting "Death to England" and demanding the expulsion of the ambassador.

Police in Tehran have been standing guard outside the facility to protect the British ambassador to Iran who was summoned by Iranian authorities following his "illegal and inappropriate presence" at a protest.

Rob Macaire was earlier arrested after he attended a vigil for the victims of the Ukrainian Airlines tragedy, which soon turned into a demonstration.

He was held on suspicion of organising, provoking and directing radical actions before being released.

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

However, Iran's foreign minister later suggested the arrest was a mistake and organised his release as soon he found out the man's identity.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called the arrest a "flagrant violation" of international law after Mr Macaire was detained for over an hour.

Barricades and guards were seen outside the embassy
Barricades and guards were seen outside the embassy. Picture: Getty

Chants of "Death to England" could be heard as demonstrators appeared to besiege the embassy in the Iranian capital.

Other chants caught on camera were "British ambassador must be expelled" and "British embassy must be closed."

The protesters were seen holding up pictures of Qassem Soleimani - who was killed in a US airstrike at Baghdad Airport last week - and waving red flags, seen as a symbol of revenge in Iran.

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

Alaeddin Boroujerdi, a member of Iran's parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy, accused the ambassador of organising protests and called for his expulsion.

Iranian authorities were on standby for further demonstrations after the Revolutionary Guard admitted accidentally shooting down the Ukrainian jet, killing all 176 people on board.

Protesters descended on the streets of Tehran last night demanding Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stand down from his role following the tragedy.

US President Donald Trump used Twitter to warn the country's leaders not to kill the protesters.

He wrote: "Thousands have already been killed or imprisoned by you, and the World is watching. More importantly, the USA is watching.

"Turn your internet back on and let reporters roam free! Stop the killing of your great Iranian people!"

Mr Trump had previously posted in the Iranian language Farsi, commending "the brave and suffering Iranian people" whose courage he called "inspiring."

Local media reported that demonstrators ripped up pictures of Major General Qassem Soleimani.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted that the protests were a sign that the Iranian people "are fed up with the regime's lies, corruption, ineptitude and brutality."

Iran had previously denied any involvement with the Ukrainian airliner crash, insisting that it was the result of a technical fault.

However, on Saturday they admitted responsibility, with Boris Johnson calling the move "an important first step" before calling for "a comprehensive, transparent and independent international investigation" into the tragedy.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said of the crisis: "Our focus remains closure, accountability, transparency, and justice for the families and loved ones of the victims.

"This is a national tragedy, and all Canadians are mourning together."