Iran General NewsIran summons British envoy after rights criticism

Iran summons British envoy after rights criticism

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AFP: The foreign ministry summoned British envoy Simon Gass on Monday for criticising Iran’s human rights record and calling for the release of a prominent lawyer, and also to protest against what it called violence against students by British police.

TEHRAN (AFP) — The foreign ministry summoned British envoy Simon Gass on Monday for criticising Iran’s human rights record and calling for the release of a prominent lawyer, and also to protest against what it called violence against students by British police.

The official IRNA news agency quoted the head of the ministry’s human rights department, Ali Bahraini, as saying he “strongly protested at the publishing of a article on the website of the British embassy in Tehran which is contrary to diplomatic principles, and considers it an unconventional act by an ambassador.”

Bahraini was quoted as “reminding” Gass of “the necessity of refraining from acts which are not within the correct diplomatic framework.”

In remarks posted on the embassy website to mark Thursday’s International Human Rights Day, Gass said that lawyers, journalists and NGO workers were “nowhere under greater threat than in Iran.”

“Since last year human rights defenders have been harassed and imprisoned,” he said in what he called a blog to mark the rights day, citing the case of prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh who was arrested on September 4.

Sotoudeh, renowned for defending convicts on death row for murder committed when they were under 18 and for her defence of opposition activists, faces charges of acting against national security.

Alistair Burt, the British Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East, rejected calls in the Iranian press for Gass to be withdrawn.

“The important work being carried out by the British Embassy in Tehran has the full support of this government,” Burt said in a statement in London.

“It is only through open and frank dialogue that we can solve the problems we face, particularly as the international community seeks to address widespread concern over the abuse of human rights in Iran.”

Conservative MPs and a military chief slammed Gass’s comments on Sunday.

MP Kazem Jalali, spokesman for parliamentary foreign policy commission, said his committee would next week discuss downgrading ties with London.

Masoud Jazayeri, deputy chief of staff of the armed forces, called on the foreign ministry to “firmly confront” Gass for his “rude” and “cheap” comments.

IRNA reported that Bahraini on Monday also criticised “inhuman” acts by the “British police” against “peaceful student gatherings.”

Thousands of student demonstrators went on the rampage through London on Thursday as the government narrowly won a parliamentary vote on raising university tuition fees.

Iran accuses Britain of backing the opposition and fomenting unrest after the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June 2009.

Iranian leaders have also accused the British intelligence service MI6 and US and Israeli intelligence over the assassination of a top nuclear scientist last month.

Dozens of basijis — members of the hardline Islamist militia — demonstrated outside the British embassy on Sunday over the killing, burning US and British flags.

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