Iran arrests paragliding Slovaks, alleges they were spying
BEIRUT-- Iranian authorities confirmed Sunday the arrests of several Slovakian nationals who were taken into custody on espionage-related charges while on a paragliding trip to Iran.
Alaeddin Boroujerdi, chairman of Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, said the group had been acting suspiciously.
“Some Slovakian nationals were taking photos of our country’s military sites by glider when arrested by security forces,” he was quoted as saying in a report by Iranian Students News Agency.
A report by Iran’s semi-official Mehr News Agency quoting Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Araqchi said seven Slovaks had been arrested, all of whom entered the country as tourists. An investigation has been launched and the Slovakian ambassador in Tehran has been notified of the arrests, the spokesman added.
It was not immediately clear where or when the arrests took place. Boroujerdi said only that the paragliders had been present in “sensitive areas” and that they had been in possession of unspecified “equipment,” according to local media reports.
On Friday, the Slovakian Foreign Ministry confirmed that an unspecified number of Slovakian citizens had been detained in Iran.
“Our diplomats in Tehran are in touch with the arrested citizens and the Iranian authorities,” Slovakian Foreign Ministry spokesman Boris Gandel told Agence France-Presse.
This is not the first espionage case in Iran involving a Slovak national. In February, a Slovak was reportedly held for 40 days in solitary confinement on accusations of being a CIA spy before being released.
Other alleged spying cases involving foreigners have also made headlines from Iran.
In 2011, Iran freed U.S. citizens Joshua Fattal and Shane Bauer, who had been convicted of spying and had been sentenced to eight years in prison. The two and a third U.S. citizen, Sarah Shourd, were arrested in 2009 while hiking along the Iraq-Iran border area. All denied being spies and said they were on a recreational hike. Shourd was released in 2010.
In 2010, Clotilde Reiss, a French teaching assistant, was freed after being arrested at Tehran’s airport in July 2009 and held on spying charges. She had worked as a teaching assistant at the University of Isfahan and was accused of taking part in a Western plot to destabilize the Iranian government after 2009’s disputed presidential election. She denied the spying charges.
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