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Five Foreigners Detained During February 11 Iran Rallies

Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi

Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi

TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Five foreigners, including a French national, a Japanese reporter, and two Russians, were detained during the February 11 rallies marking the anniversary of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution, a prosecutor said today.

The case of one of the Russians and of a detained Afghan citizen had been handed to the judiciary, prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi told ISNA news agency, without giving names.

Three of the foreigners have been released, ISNA reported, although Russia's Foreign Ministry said later both its citizens had been freed after its Tehran embassy intervened.

Iran has accused Western enemies of stoking street unrest after the Islamic republic's disputed election last June, which plunged the country into its deepest internal crisis since the revolution three decades ago.

Jafari Dolatabadi said the five were detained during the rallies, without making clear if they were all held in Tehran.

"[The case of] one Afghan was handed over to the judiciary because of taking part in an illegal gathering [in western Tehran]...on the sideline of the main rallies," he said, apparently referring to an opposition rally.

"A Russian national, who was arrested for illegally entering the country, was handed over to the judiciary and the Revolutionary Court is studying the case," the prosecutor added.

But Igor Lyakin-Frolov, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, said both Russians "have been released after our embassy intervened. And now, as far as I know, they are in Moscow."

"They did not take part in the demonstration. They were just standing in the place where the demonstration was taking place. And they were detained," he said.

On February 11, Iranian state television said "tens of millions of people" rallied to support the revolution across the country of 70 million.

An opposition website said security forces fired tear gas at people staging a counterrally in Tehran.

Russia is among six world powers involved in efforts to find a diplomatic solution to a long-running international dispute over Iran's nuclear program, which the West suspects is aimed at making bombs. Tehran denies the charge.

The Kremlin said on February 16 that Iran could face sanctions if it failed to allay international fears over the program.

A French teaching assistant, Clotilde Reiss, was arrested in Tehran after the election on accusations of taking part in a Western plot to destabilize the Iranian government. She is out of jail on bail and staying at the embassy of France, which is also one of the six world powers.