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Iran Summons Saudi Envoy Over Teen Pilgrims' Harassment

  • RFE/RL's Radio Farda

Iran has urged Saudi Arabia to impose "the most severe punishment" on two Saudi police officers arrested on suspicion of sexually harassing two teenage Iranian boys at Jeddah airport.

Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollah said on April 9 that Saudi authorities had informed the Iranian ambassador about the arrests.

The Foreign Ministry had summoned Saudi Arabia's charge d'affairs in Tehran earlier this week over allegations that the two boys were harassed and demanded the Saudi government to bring the suspected culprits to justice.

The ministry said the airport police officers separated the boys, 14 and 15 years old, from their fellow passengers "for body searches" when they were returning to Iran from a pilgrimage to Mecca.

Saudi authorities "have pledged to investigate the case at the earliest," the ministry said.

According to the ministry, the Saudi police summoned all officers on duty in the airport and then asked the boys to identify the two officers.

The Foreign Ministry said it "would explore every avenue to demand the Saudi government to bring to justice the policemen at the airport."

The allegation has sparked angry reactions in Iran.

Deputy Foreign Minister Hassan Qashqavi slammed it as “heinous and inhumane crime.”

A prominent religious figure, Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makerm Shirazi, urged Tehran to stop sending Iranian pilgrims without security guarantees in Saudi Arabia.

He said the Saudi authorities "have done gigantic construction projects in Mecca and Medina, but the most important thing here is security," Shirazi said.

Iranian media reported that 18 lawmakers sent a letter to President Hassan Rohani urging him to demand justice for the two teenagers.

Lawmaker Mohammad Saleh Jokar demanded government take a tough stance on the matter.

The incident comes as relations between predominantly Shi'ite Iran and regional rival, Sunni-led Saudi Arabia has soured over the situation in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition is conducting air strikes against Shi'ite Huthi rebels.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on April 9 the Saudi intervention in Yemen is a mistake.

Khamenei accused Saudi Arabia of carrying out what "genocide" in Yemen.

Iran summoned Saudi Arabia's charge d'affaires in Tehran on April 8 after a spokesman for the coalition said Iran had been training Huthi fighters.

Iran denies aiding Huthi rebels, who along with mutinous government forces, have taken large parts of Yemen, including the capital, Sanaa.

With reporting by,, and