Iranian authorities have arrested a group of Slovak paragliders, saying they are suspected of espionage. According to local officials, even though they came as tourists, they were said to have violated the law for carrying objects described as “unconventional devices” and for taking photographs of military sites, for which they were detained and are currently being investigated, the SITA newswire reported on June 30.
The Slovak Foreign Affairs Ministry has confirmed the detention, saying that it is in direct contact with both Slovaks and Iranian authorities, but it did not reveal any details since diplomatic negotiations are still in progress, the Sme daily reported on its website on June 28.
“No verdict in the whole case has been issued yet, everything is open, so we cannot give you any further details,” head of the press department of the Foreign Affairs Ministry Peter Susko told Sme.
According to the daily, the group of eight Slovaks was detained over three weeks ago after jumping from a plane and taking aerial photos of the country, including of military buildings. They travelled to Iran as tourists at the beginning of May. The last message they sent was from May 12 during their visit to Esfahan. In their messages they spoke fondly of the country as well as the people who, in their words, were very friendly to tourists, Sme reported.
The Slovaks have belonged to a paragliding club since 2010. There are several videos from their expeditions from all around the world on their website.
“It has nothing to do with espionage,” one of the friends of the detained Slovaks told Sme, adding that it is just a misunderstanding.
Yet, according to the website of the Slovak Foreign Affairs Ministry, it is prohibited for tourists to take photos near state buildings, military sites and anywhere else where taking photographs is banned. Visitors should also be mindful of using cameras at locations where they are not fully able to distinguish the character of the site. Those who violate this rule could face accusations of espionage and imprisonment, Sme reported.
Meanwhile, the Slovak Information Service (SIS) intelligence agency confirmed that it has taken some steps in the case of the detained Slovaks. Yet, it refused to reveal any further details regarding the security of the Slovaks and any possible future developments, the TASR newswire wrote on July 1.
The group of paragliders are not the first Slovaks to be detained by Iranian authorities. Several months ago Slovak national Matej Valuch was discovered to have been detained in Iran, who also appeared in a video made by Iranian authorities in which he allegedly confirmed to be cooperating with the CIA. The Iranian media informed that Valuch had allegedly contacted local scientists in an attempt to “obtain information about the scientific progress” of the country. The Slovak returned to Slovakia at the beginning of February, SITA reported.
Source: SITA, Sme, TASR
Compiled by Radka Minarechová from press reports
The Slovak Spectator cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information presented in its Flash News postings.
1. Jul 2013 at 14:00