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UPDATED: Six paragliders detained in Iran return home

AFTER three and half months six of eight Slovak paragliders detained in Iran in mid-May for alleged espionage are back in Slovakia. The men appeared at a press conference summoned on September 1 by Prime Minister Robert Fico and Foreign Affairs Minister Miroslav Lajčák. The PM added they already have a plan to get the remaining two Slovaks released, the SITA newswire reported.

AFTER three and half months six of eight Slovak paragliders detained in Iran in mid-May for alleged espionage are back in Slovakia. The men appeared at a press conference summoned on September 1 by Prime Minister Robert Fico and Foreign Affairs Minister Miroslav Lajčák. The PM added they already have a plan to get the remaining two Slovaks released, the SITA newswire reported.

“The negotiations with the Iranian side were correct and, as you can see, their result is the release of six of eight detained Slovaks,” Fico said, as quoted by SITA.

The PM did not want to comment on the composition of the delegation involved in the negotiations over the release of the paragliders, nor did he talk about the negotiations. He only said that Slovakia did not accept any financial commitments in the process.

The eight Slovaks were detained for what Iranian authorities called “illegal activities, including taking photos of prohibited places” in the Isfahan province, where several key nuclear facilities are located, including at least one plant used for enriching uranium. They are members of Paragliding Expedition Slovakia, a group that has organised several expeditions in recent years, which made documentary films that they later presented at film festivals. The group reportedly travelled to Iran as tourists at the beginning of May.

Iranian authorities confirmed that eight Slovak paragliders had been detained on June 30, saying they were “behaving inappropriately and had unconventional devices with them”, as reported by the TASR newswire.

Slovak Foreign Affairs Ministry officials confirmed that they were dealing with the case since the end of May. During the September 1 press conference the special team of the Slovak Information Service (SIS) intelligence agency and the Foreign Affairs Ministry personnel that dealt with the case of detained Slovaks were both thanked, as reported by TASR.

Vladislav Frigo, one of the six released paragliders, told the press that the Iranians treated them well. They were kept in the same cell, which was big and had a toilet, a television and a refrigerator. They were also allowed to cook their own meals and could ask for food when the Iranians went shopping.

He also said that they were allegedly detained for having dual-band transmitters, adding that they were not using the band used in Iran, SITA wrote.

The two remaining Slovaks are still in custody, as the local bodies still have to look into some suspicions, Fico said. He added that they however have a clear plan for how to act in order to get the paragliders back to Slovakia, though the negotiations will be “very complicated”, SITA wrote.

Frigo added that the two Slovaks are doing okay and are in good health.

Lajčák urged people planning trips to exotic countries to take the time to learn the necessary information about a given country first and to register with the local Slovak representative office, TASR wrote.

“We have to be aware that not every country in the world has a similar regime as we do,” the minister said, as quoted by TASR. “What is customary and permitted here, might not be automatically permitted in other countries.”

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