Poland Confirms Iran Has Detained Its Scientist For ‘Espionage’
Iran's Fars state television reported that the country’s Revolutionary Guards arrested several foreign diplomats on an unspecified date.
On Thursday, Poland confirmed that one of its scientists is detained in Iran, while Austria and the United Kingdom both rejected reports that any of their diplomats were being held there, according to a new Agence France-Presse (AFP) report.
Poland’s foreign ministry said Maciej Walczak, head of the environmental microbiology and biotechnology department at Nicolaus Copernicus University, was first taken into custody in September, BBC News reported. Iranian news agencies stated that he was arrested for taking soil samples in a restricted area, along with British deputy ambassador Giles Whitaker and the husband of an Austrian diplomat.
On Wednesday, Iranian state television reported that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Intelligence Organization had identified several foreign nationals carrying out “espionage in forbidden zones.” It further explained that “pictures published by IRGC intelligence show that [Walczak] took samples of soil, salt, rocks, clay, and water.”
According to AFP, Iran's Fars news agency and state television reported that the country’s Revolutionary Guards arrested several foreign diplomats on an unspecified date. “The Revolutionary Guards' intelligence service identified and arrested diplomats from foreign embassies who were spying in Iran,” the news agency said.
On Thursday, the Polish foreign ministry issued a statement confirming that a “highly reputed scientist” was being detained in Iran, but provided no further details. “Consular and diplomatic steps have been taken to make it possible for him to return to Poland as soon as possible,” it continued.
Britain, however, quickly denied the reports. On Thursday, Britain's ambassador to Iran confirmed that the envoy had left the country last year.
“These reports that our Deputy Ambassador is currently detained are very interesting. … He actually left Iran last December, at the end of his posting,” British ambassador Simon Shercliff wrote on Twitter.
Meanwhile, Vienna also denied reports in Iranian media that claimed that Ronald Geschirr, whom it called “the spouse of the Austrian embassy's cultural adviser,” was among those in custody.
“Regarding the media reports, all employees and their relatives in Tehran are doing well, nobody was arrested,” an Austrian foreign ministry spokeswoman told AFP.
The new developments coincide with fast-rising tensions between the Middle Eastern nation and Western powers over stalled attempts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal. In 2018, under then-President Donald Trump, the United States walked out of the deal and proceeded to hit Iran with renewed sanctions against hundreds of entities throughout the country’s energy sector and its broader economy.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Finance and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.