Ex­pul­sion of en­voy ‘may be best for him’, says Iran cleric

The Daily Telegraph - - World News - By Josie En­sor MID­DLE EAST COR­RE­SPON­DENT

IRAN de­clared the Bri­tish am­bas­sador to Tehran per­sona non grata yes­ter­day, call­ing for him to be ex­pelled for his al­leged role in re­cent anti-govern­ment protests.

Iran’s ju­di­ciary spokesman said Robert Ma­caire had played a “provoca­tive role” when he at­tended a vigil at the week­end for pas­sen­gers killed in the pas­sen­ger jet crash last week.

Mr Ma­caire said he left the event as soon as the protests be­gan and was ar­rested on his way to the em­bassy, in vi­o­la­tion of the Vi­enna Con­ven­tion.

He was de­tained for sev­eral hours be­fore Iran’s for­eign min­istry in­ter­vened and ar­ranged for his re­lease.

An ef­figy of the am­bas­sador and a Union flag were burnt in Tehran yes­ter­day.

“It is not ac­cept­able for us to see that the Bri­tish am­bas­sador went out­side

‘It is not ac­cept­able for us to see that the Bri­tish am­bas­sador took part in an il­le­gal gath­er­ing’

the em­bassy and took part in an il­le­gal gath­er­ing, filmed it and had a provoca­tive role in its con­tin­u­a­tion,” Gho­lamhos­sein Es­maili, the spokesman for Iran’s ju­di­ciary, told reporters.

“This per­son is per­sona non grata... while ex­pec­ta­tions and in­ter­na­tional reg­u­la­tions ne­ces­si­tate his ex­pul­sion.”

Ay­a­tol­lah Ah­mad Alam­ol­hoda, a promi­nent hard­line cleric, said ex­pelling the am­bas­sador would be “the best thing that can hap­pen to him” as oth­er­wise loyal sup­port­ers of Qassem Soleimani, killed in a US drone strike ear­lier this month, would “chop him to small pieces”.

Do­minic Raab, the For­eign Sec­re­tary, said the UK Govern­ment had re­ceived no for­mal no­ti­fi­ca­tion that Mr Ma­caire would be ex­pelled, adding that any such ac­tion would be “re­gret­table”.

The Ira­nian ju­di­ciary an­nounced the ar­rest of a num­ber of peo­ple over the down­ing of the Ukra­nian Air­lines jet by Iran’s mis­sile de­fence sys­tem, which killed all 176 on board.

Justin Trudeau, the prime min­is­ter of Canada, which lost 63 na­tion­als in the crash, took an ex­tra­or­di­nary swipe at Donald Trump, say­ing the vic­tims would be with their fam­i­lies if not for the US pres­i­dent’s de­ci­sion to tar­get Soleimani.

“I think if there were no ten­sions, if there was no es­ca­la­tion re­cently in the re­gion, those Cana­di­ans would be right now home with their fam­i­lies,” Mr Trudeau said.

Mem­bers of a mili­tia loyal to the Is­lamic repub­lic burn a card­board cutout of am­bas­sador Robert Ma­caire and a Union flag in Tehran

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