Sunday, August 9, 2009

British embassy worker admits inciting unrest

Updated on : Sunday, August 9, 2009

TEHRAN: The Iranian media is claiming a British Embassy worker has admitted to inciting unrest at today’s mass trial in Tehran.

Hossein Rassam has told the court he was ordered by the UK government to interfere on their behalf in recent protests against Iran’s disputed elections, according to the state news agency.

The 44-year-old political analyst is among those being paraded before cameras in a mass-trial accused of conspiring with western governments and opposition politicians.

Rassam claimed a budget of £300,000 had been allocated to embassy staff to establish contacts with Iranian political groups, influential individuals and activists, The Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Rassam, who could face charges of espionage, was alleged to have said: “My main responsibility was to gather information from Tehran and other cities by setting up contacts with individuals and influential parties and political groups and to send reports to London.

“The British Embassy, due to its hostile policies in Iran and fear of exposure of its contacts inside Iran, employed local staff to establish such contacts.

“I established such contacts based on orders from embassy officials.”

The prosecution argued Rassam’s testimony is evidence that the UK is trying to overthrow the Iranian government by provoking the recent protests against the disputed re-election of hardliner present Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Rassam also mentioned Tom Burn and Paul Blemey, who were two British diplomats deported from Iran in tit-for-tat expulsions soon after the protests broke out.

Earlier the Foreign Office condemned the trial as an outrage.

A spokesman said: “This is completely unacceptable and directly contradicts assurances we had been given repeatedly by senior Iranian officials.

“We deplore these trials and the so-called confessions of prisoners who have been denied their basic human rights.

“Our Ambassador in Tehran has demanded early clarification of the position from the Iranian authorities.

“We will then decide on how to respond to this latest outrage.”

Foreign Secretary David Miliband said he was confident that Rassam has not engaged in any illegal behaviour.

Rassam was joined in court today by French national Clotilde Reiss, a language teacher accused by the Iranian authorities of "collecting information and provoking rioters". He was arrested with eight other embassy colleagues and released last month on bail.

Since the election Iran has arrested hundreds of people, including reformist politicians, journalists, activists and lawyers and human rights campaigners have accused the Iranian authorities of using violence and intimidation on suspects and witnesses to obtain false confessions.

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