Iran releases remaining Slovak paragliders

IRANIAN authorities released the two remaining Slovak paragliders detained in May for alleged espionage and carrying illegal devices.

IRANIAN authorities released the two remaining Slovak paragliders detained in May for alleged espionage and carrying illegal devices.

The pair was handed over to Slovak officials on December 11, the Iranian Mehr newswire reported, as quoted by the TASR newswire, without giving more details on the release. Beginning in September, Iran freed six of the eight Slovak travellers, but two others, Pavol Šeliga and Marek Stolarčík, were to stay in the country until the suspicions surrounding them were fully investigated, TASR wrote.

The Slovak delegation, led by Prime Minister Robert Fico and Foreign Affairs Minister Miroslav Lajčák, flew to Tehran to discuss the conclusion of the release. They met with both paragliders and Iranian Vice President Es'haq Jahangiri, the SITA newswire wrote on December 12.

It was not clear when the two Slovaks will fly home, since at the time The Slovak Spectator went to print, the Iranian authorities had still not issued permits for their departure. The delegation was doing its best to get them back to Slovakia as soon as possible, Fico told TASR.

The eight Slovaks were detained in mid-May for what Iranian authorities called “illegal activities, such as 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 abroad in recent years, and which made documentary films that they later presented at film festivals. The group claims to have travelled to Iran as tourists in early 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 TASR. One of the six released paragliders said that they were allegedly detained for having dual-band transmitters.

This case became one of the crucial issues of the talks in August between Slovak Foreign and European Affairs Minister Miroslav Lajčák and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif on the occasion of the latter’s appointment, and also in September during their meeting in New York.

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