AFP: A US woman reported by media to be a suspected spy was refused entry at a border crossing with Armenia a week ago over a visa problem, Iran’s Al-Alam television reported Thursday, citing a security source.
By Hiedeh Farmani
TEHRAN (AFP) — A US woman reported by media to be a suspected spy was refused entry at a border crossing with Armenia a week ago over a visa problem, Iran’s Al-Alam television reported Thursday, citing a security source.
That contradicted earlier media reports that she had been arrested.
“The American woman was not able to enter Iran,” Al-Alam said. “She approached the border guards, but as she did not have a visa, she was not authorised to enter Iran. She was sent back to Armenia.”
Earlier in the day, Fars news agency reported that Iranian officials had arrested an American woman on spying charges after she tried to enter the country from Armenia “with spying equipment in her teeth.”
“About a week ago an American spy woman whose name is said to be Hal Talayan was arrested by customs officials at Nordouz” border area in East Azarbaijan province, Fars said, quoting an unnamed source.
“The 55-year-old American woman was arrested while she had entered Iran from Armenia without a visa and had placed spying equipment in her teeth,” the report said, without elaborating.
“This American spy said after arrest that she would be killed by Armenian security forces if Iran handed her over,” Fars said.
There has been no official confirmation of any version of the story, which was first reported on Wednesday by a little known conservative news website Nasimonline.ir, without naming any sources.
Its unsourced, unconfirmed report was carried by several Iranian newspapers on Thursday morning.
The woman would have been the fourth American to be arrested by Iran on spying charges along with hikers Sarah Shourd, 32, Shane Bauer, 28 and Josh Fattal, 28.
The three insist they innocently strayed across the border when they were detained on July 31, 2009 during a hike in the Iraqi Kurdistan region.
While Shourd was released last year on humanitarian grounds, Iranian authorities have not dropped the case against her and officials have set February 6 as a trial date for all three hikers.
Their trial date coincides with the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution and the fall of the US-backed shah’s regime — when anti-American rhetoric traditionally reaches a climax.
Iran is also detaining two German journalists after they were arrested in October while interviewing the son of a woman condemned to death by stoning.
Tehran says the Germans entered the country on tourist visas and failed to obtain the necessary accreditation for journalists from the authorities before “posing as reporters” when they contacted Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s family.
After Shourd was freed on hefty bail in September, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad suggested that the United States free eight jailed Iranians as a “humanitarian gesture” in exchange for the two remaining hikers.
US State Department spokesman Mark Toner rejected any link at the time.
“We would just say that there is no equivalent between these individuals who have been either charged or tried and afforded due process in a court and these hikers who crossed an unmarked border and have yet to be charged,” Toner said.
Iran is also under mounting international pressure led by the United States over its controversial nuclear programme which is feared to cover a weapons drive.
Iran denies the charge and is due to hold a second round of talks over its nuclear programme with world powers in Istanbul in late January.