Iran’s ambassador to the UK has been given a dressing down over the arrest of Britain’s representative in Tehran.
The UK’s ambassador to Iran, Rob Macaire, was arrested by police on Saturday as demonstrations broke out over the downing of a Ukrainian airliner by Tehran’s military.
In response to the arrest, Hamid Baeidinejad was summoned by the Foreign Office for a meeting with Middle East Minister Andrew Murrison.
Dr Murrison said: “The arrest of our ambassador to Iran was a flagrant violation of international law and it is important that Iran understands how seriously we take this matter.
“It must not be allowed to happen again. I made that clear to the Iranian ambassador this afternoon.”
In the Commons, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab hit out at the “illegal” treatment of Mr Macaire, who was held for about three hours after attending a vigil for those killed on Ukraine International Airlines flight 752.
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.
— Rob Macaire (@HMATehran) January 12, 2020
Footage previously published by Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency appeared to show Mr Macaire at what it called an “illegal gathering”.
But Mr Raab said: “He was not attending or recording a political protest or demonstration.”
Mr Macaire said that he went to an “event advertised as a vigil for victims” of the tragedy to pay his respects to the four Britons killed when the aircraft was shot down, but “left after five mins when some started chanting”.
Mr Raab said that “given the treatment of the ambassador”, security measures at the embassy in Tehran were being kept under review.
He told MPs that Iran now faced a choice about its future direction.
“The regime in Tehran is at a crossroads,” Mr Raab said.
“It can slip further and further into political and economic isolation.
“But there is an alternative and the regime does have a choice: the diplomatic door remains open, now is the time for Iran to engage in diplomacy and chart a peaceful way forwards.”
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard admitted accidentally shooting down the Ukrainian jet with the loss of all 176 people on board, including four Britons.
Families of the victims could seek compensation from the Iranian government, Downing Street indicated.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “As a first step we need a comprehensive, transparent and independent investigation to know exactly what happened.
“Of course the families of the four British victims deserve justice and closure and we will continue to do everything we can to support them in getting that, including options for compensation.”