UK Ambassador to Iran will return to London after protestors burn effigy of him in streets

15 January 2020, 16:32

An effigy was burnt of the ambassador
An effigy was burnt of the ambassador. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

The UK ambassador to Iran will return to London for a visit following his arrest for attending an "illegal" protest.

Rob Macaire was labelled as a "person non grata" by Iran's judiciary, who also called for him to be expelled from the country.

He was taken into custody on Sunday after attending what Iran deemed was an illegal protest over the deaths of 176 people who died when a Ukrainian passenger jet which was accidentally shot down over Tehran.

The Foreign Office has said Mr Macaire's trip to the UK has been "planned for quite a while".

A spokesperson added he will be returning to Iran in the coming days, and it is "quite normal" for ambassadors to travel to London for meetings.

Iran originally denied involvement in the crash, but later admitted the plane had been shot down by mistake.

It happened just hours after Iran launched missiles at two airbases in Iraq housing US troops in response to the killing of general Qassem Soleimani in a US airstrike.

An effigy of the ambassador was burned as part of a demonstration
An effigy of the ambassador was burned as part of a demonstration. Picture: PA

Sunday's vigil for the victims became a protest against the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, with protestors calling for him to stand down from his role.

Although Mr Macaire said he did attend, he told authorities he left after five minutes when some protestors started chanting.

Soon after his arrest and subsequent release, Mr Macaire sent a series of tweets to say he was not involved in the protest and was just wanting to "pay respects" to those who died.

The plane was shot down just outside of Tehran
The plane was shot down just outside of Tehran. Picture: PA

On Tuesday, pro-Iranian protesters burned an effigy of the ambassador alongside US and UK flags.

Iranian media reported that judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Esmaeili said Mr Macaire had not respected the nation's laws and should be expelled.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has condemned Mr Macaire’s arrest as “a flagrant violation of international law”.

“It would be deeply regrettable if that were the case,” he told the House of Commons, referring to the possibility of the ambassador being expelled.

“We need to keep the diplomatic channels open, and futile gestures like that are not going to resolve the problems that the regime in Tehran face.”