Published in “Tagesspiegel” on October 29 2009;art141,2935474

Published in “Der Standard” (Austria) on October 29 2009

Sentence allegedly due to charges of inciting violence during anti-Ahmadinejad protests – London calls on Iran to lift sentence
London – Great Britain on Thursday responded with outrage to the verdict against an employee of the British Embassy in Iran. According to British media reports, Iranian citizen Hussein Rassam was convicted of espionage and sentenced to 4 years in prison. He had been arrested after the protests against the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. British Foreign Minister David Miliband demanded to overturn the “harsh” sentence against Rassam, who works for the British Embassy as a senior political analyst. Miliband described the sentence as an attack on the entire diplomatic corps.

The conviction was “absolutely unjustified”, stated Miliband and summoned the Iranian ambassador to London with a request to explain the issue. “This is considered an attack on the entire diplomatic corps in Iran – important principles are put at stake”, Miliband’s statement says. “Such a decision (…) represents another threat to he Embassy staff in pursuit of their regular and lawful duties,” he added.

Miliband called on Iran to speedily start an appeals process that should lead to the lifting of the sentence. According to the verdict, Rassam is also guilty of fueling unrest. This was reported by the British newspaper The Times. Rassam is free on bail since August. Initially it was unclear whether he must begin to serve his prison sentence immediately, or whether due to the pending appeal he will remain on bail. The sentence has not yet been published by the Iranian authorities.

Iranian authorities had arrested the 44 year old Rassam along with eight other embassy staff, but he was the only one to be indicted. Rassam was put on a mass trial together with more than 100 opponents to President Ahmadinejad after the protests against the elections.

Relations between both countries had already been tense, since Iran accused Great Britain to have incited the protests in the country, whereupon the diplomats of both countries were respectively expelled.

Following the elections of June 12, hundreds of thousands of protesters had taken to the streets. The protests were in parts violently quelled. More than 1000 protesters and supporters of the opposition were arrested, at least 20 people were killed. The opposition until today does not recognize the election and calls it a fraud. (APA)

Published in “Süddeutsche Zeitung” on October 29 2009