AFP: Egyptian authorities have released an Iranian diplomat detained on suspicion of spying on the North African country for Tehran’s intelligence services, Egyptian state media reported on Sunday.
CAIRO (AFP) — Egyptian authorities have released an Iranian diplomat detained on suspicion of spying on the North African country for Tehran’s intelligence services, Egyptian state media reported on Sunday.
The official MENA news agency reported the state security prosecution released the man after it was “notified by the (Egyptian) foreign ministry that he was a diplomat in the Iranian mission” in Cairo.
A security official confirmed the man’s release, but there was no immediate explanation why he was arrested in the first place despite clearly being identified as a diplomat when detained.
MENA had earlier reported that “the state security prosecution today began an inquiry into Iranian diplomat Qasim al-Hosseini, who works at the Iranian interests section in Cairo.”
Hosseini, who was arrested several days ago, had been accused of “spying for a foreign state (Iran) in order to harm Egypt’s interests,” said MENA.
An initial probe found the diplomat gathered “information about Egypt on the latest developments the country has experienced and the conditions through which it is passing, then sent them to Iran’s intelligence services,” it added.
The Iranian interests section in Cairo denied the report.
“He is in the embassy as I speak. It did not happen that way, he was not arrested,” an official in the section told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Earlier in Tehran, the Arabic-language television channel Al-Alam quoted a source as saying that Hosseini “is currently in his office and working normally” in Cairo.
“We are following the case,” he added without elaborating.
Iran and Egypt have no diplomatic ties and relations between the two countries were tense under former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.
Tehran severed diplomatic relations with Egypt in 1980 in protest at Cairo’s peace treaty with Israel signed a year earlier, and the two states maintain only interests sections in each other’s capitals.
But the two Muslim countries have signalled they plan to mend ties in the wake of the fall of Mubarak’s regime on February 11 this year.
Mubarak’s regime had accused Shiite Iran of trying to gain a foothold in the Sunni country through a plot by the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah to attack tourist sites and shipping in the Suez Canal.
The defendants in the case, several who received life sentences, said they were merely sending arms to Palestinian militants in the neighbouring Gaza Strip and Iran denied Cairo’s assertions.