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Iranian Cleric Says U.K. Embassy Staff May Face Trial


Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati
TEHRAN (Reuters) -- A senior Iranian cleric has suggested that detained local staff from the British Embassy in Tehran would be put on trial in the Islamic republic for their alleged role in postelection unrest.

Iran earlier this week said nine Iranian British Embassy staff had been detained for involvement in street unrest that erupted after the disputed June 12 presidential election. Most have since been released.

British officials have said two remained in detention.

"In these developments their embassy here maintained a presence in which individuals were arrested and inevitably they will be tried as they have [made] confessions," Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati told Friday prayer worshippers in Tehran.

Jannati heads the Guardians Council, a powerful constitutional watchdog.

Britain's Foreign Office said it was "very concerned" by Jannati's statement.

"We are very concerned by these reports and are investigating," a spokeswoman said. "Allegations that our staff are involved in fomenting unrest are wholly without foundation. We will be seeking an urgent explanation from the Iranians."

She said British authorities were speaking to the Iranian Embassy in London and to Iranian officials in Tehran.