Tuesday 14 January 2020 11:17 am

UK ambassador to Iran labelled 'persona non grata' by Iranian judges

The UK’s ambassador to Iran has been called a “persona non grata” by the Islamic Republic’s judiciary, who claim he contributed to escalating anti-government tensions.

Rob Macaire was detained by Iranian police this weekend for attending a vigil for those who died in last week’s plane crash in Tehran, before later being released.

Gholam-Hossein Esmaili, the Iranian judiciary’s spokesman, told reporters: “It is not acceptable for us to see that the British ambassador went outside the embassy and took part in an illegal gathering, filmed it and had a provocative role in its continuation.”

He added: “This person is persona non grata . . . while people’s expectations and international regulations necessitate his expulsion.”

The calls, which was first reported by the Financial Times, came as a hardline cleric appeared to threaten Macaire, saying leaving Iran would be the “best thing that can happen to him.”

Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda said that if he did not, loyal supporters of general Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a US airstrike on 3 January, could “chop him into small pieces”, according to state media.

The Foreign Office have not commented on the statement, but said that Macaire would return to London this week as part of his normal official schedule.

However, a source close to the Foreign Office said that no such judgement had been communicated, and that channels between the countries remained opened.

Yesterday Iran’s ambassador to the UK has been summoned by the Foreign Office in response to the “unacceptable” arrest of the British ambassador to Iran in Tehran this weekend.

Foreign office minister Andrew Murrison later tweeted that he had requested assurances over the safety of embassy staff.

The detaining of diplomats is illegal under the 1961 Vienna convention.

In an interview with the BBC this morning, Prime Minister Boris Jonson backed the US president Donald Trump’s bid to ditch the 2015 nuclear deal in favour of a new deal.

He said: “Let’s replace it and let’s replace it with the Trump deal. That’s what we need to see. And that would be a great way forward.”

Tehran has been rocked by days of protests after Iranian officials finally revealed that they had accidentally shot down the Ukrainian passenger jet on Wdnesday, with 176 people killed.

The incident occurred shortly after Iran had launched missile strikes against US bases in Iraq as revenge for the killing of Soleimani.