The dispute over the arrest of Britain’s ambassador to Tehran has escalated as the Foreign Office summoned the Iranian ambassador in order to protest about the episode.
“This was an unacceptable breach of the Vienna convention and it needs to be investigated,” a spokesperson for the prime minister said. “We are seeking full assurances from the Iranian government that this will never happen again. The FCO has summoned the Iranian ambassador today to convey our strong objections.”
There had been signs that Iran’s foreign ministry wanted to cool the row, stressing that the UK ambassador, Rob Macaire, was released as soon as his identity became known.
Iran’s ambassador to the UK, Hamid Baeidinejad, had tweeted that Macaire was released “the moment the police were informed of his identity”, adding: “Misinformation is a major source of misunderstanding and detrimental to tranquility.”
But demonstrations outside the UK’s embassy and continued demands from Iranian hardliners that the embassy be closed have prompted the Foreign Office to tell Baeidinejad personally that the arrest was in breach of all diplomatic convention.
Iranian news agencies have published what appear to be police videos showing Macaire at what he says was a vigil for Iranians killed when a Ukrainian plane was shot down last week. Four Britons were among the 176 people killed in the crash.
The film, titled “UK ambassador attending illegal protest”, did not appear to show Macaire doing anything to agitate or coordinate the protest, as has been alleged by some Iranian officials.
It is likely Macaire left the vigil once he realised he was being filmed by Iranian police. He was arrested on his way back to the embassy after he entered a barber’s shop.