The diplomatic confrontation between Britain and Iran continued Monday as Iranian police released a video of the UK ambassador in Tehran shortly before his arrest and condemned his presence at an anti-government protest as “unacceptable”.
The short video shows Rob Macaire on the campus of the Amir Kabir university as students began to chant slogans against the Iranian regime in anger over news that the Revolutionary Guard accidentally shot down a Ukrainian airliner.
Iranian police said the video bolstered their case that Mr Macaire had been inciting the protesters against the Iranian government. But the video shows the ambassador looking anxious and British officials said he left the campus shortly after it was filmed.
The British government said the ambassador had been attending a vigil for the 176 people killed on Flight PS572 and left as soon as the vigil turned into a protest.
Iranian security forces followed Mr Macaire to a barber shop nearby and arrested him later in the evening. He was held for three hours before being released. Dominic Raab condemned the incident as “a flagrant violation of international law”.
Iran's police releases first video of UK Ambassador @HMATehran attending what they call "illegal" protest rally in Tehran. The ambassador had earlier denied attending the rallypic.twitter.com/tFURUOgFAZ
— Reza Khaasteh (@Khaaasteh) January 13, 2020
Iran has not apologised for the arrest and on Monday an Iranian government spokesman said Mr Macaire had behaved in a way that was "completely unprofessional and unacceptable” by going to the university campus.
Meanwhile, two female protesters were reportedly shot and wounded in Tehran as anti-government demonstrations continued for a second night on Sunday. Video circulating on social media appeared to show they had been shot in the legs.
"Oh my God, she's bleeding nonstop!" one person shouts. Another shouts: "Bandage it!" Photos and video after the incident show pools of blood on the sidewalk.
The fresh protests come weeks after Iranian forces killed hundreds, and possibly more than a thousand, civilian demonstrators who took to the streets across the country in November in protest against the Islamic Republic.
Security forces fire on this woman in Tehran’s Azadi Ave.
Her crime? Being furious with the regime for downing a civilian aircraft and mourning in the street for 176 Iranian-Canadians who got killed in #UkrainianPlane#IranProtests2020pic.twitter.com/nGcFpb1hEC
— Masih Alinejad ��️ (@AlinejadMasih) January 12, 2020
The Iranian government acknowledged firing tear gas on Saturday and video shows a crowd of demonstrators near Azadi, or Freedom, Square fleeing as a tear gas canister landed among them.
People cough and sputter while trying to escape the fumes, with one woman calling out in Farsi: "They fired tear gas at people! Azadi Square. Death to the dictator!”
General Hossein Rahimi, chief of Tehran police, denied that his forces had used live fire and said his men had shown restraint.
"Police treated people who had gathered with patience and tolerance," Iranian media quoted Rahimi as saying. "Police did not shoot in the gatherings since broad-mindedness and restraint has been agenda of the police forces of the capital.”
However, uniformed police officers were just one arm of Iran's security forces who were out in force for the demonstrations. Riot police in black uniforms and helmets gathered earlier Sunday in Vali-e Asr Square, at Tehran University and other landmarks.
Revolutionary Guard members patrolled the city on motorbikes, and plainclothes security men were also out in force. People looked down as they walked briskly past police, apparently trying not to draw attention to themselves.
Donald Trump tweeted several messages about Iran over the weekend, including one in Farsi warning Iranian leaders “don’t kill your protesters”.
Ali Rabiei, the government spokesman, accused Mr Trump of shedding “crocodile tears” and said the US president did not really care about the lives of Iranians.
Mr Trump only deepened confusion over his strategy towards Iran as he openly contradicted his national security advisor’s claim that US sanctions would force Tehran to return to the negotiating table over the nuclear deal.
“Actually, I couldn’t care less if they negotiate. Will be totally up to them but, no nuclear weapons and ‘don’t kill your protesters,’” he wrote on Twitter.