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Iran Seizes Slovak Tourists on Spy Charges

Iran has arrested nine people, eight of them Slovaks, on charges of espionage. The charges, announced earlier this week, include accusations that members of hte group flew over restricted areas on handgliders and photographed them. It is unlikely that Western powers – which for decades have subjected Iran to intense and continuous satellite scrutiny – would leverage tourists on handgliders to collect intelligence on Iranian infrastructure.

Leaked U.S. diplomatic cables have documented Iran’s strategy of seizing Westerners on improbable charges, and then using them as political blackmail:

[French officials] Paoli and Richier also warned of possible Iranian efforts to blackmail the USG. They may try, for instance, to drag out the cases of the American and French hostages through the US/EU late September deadline for a response from the regime on the nuclear issue. Richier said the French believe this familiar Iranian tactic — hostage-taking as political blackmail — will only increase in the near future. The Iranians may also seek specific exchanges, such as the release from French custody of Majid Kakavand, an Iranian national whom the French arrested March 20 at Charles de Gaulle airport on the behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice on proliferation issues. Overall, as the USG prepares to handle its hostage cases, the French recommended we prepare for uncertainty. In the face of unpredictable Iranian behavior, Paoli and Richier said that constant pressure from foreign leaders and the media appears to be the only means to accelerate decision-making in Tehran. They also reported that the EU has no plans at the moment to recall its Ambassadors from Iran.

Earlier this year, another Slovak was heldon accusations of spying for the CIA. Iran famously detained and held for years three U.S. hikers who were arrested in 2009 while hiking along the Iraq-Iran border. In 2010, a French teaching assistant was freed after being held for a year on spying charges.

[Photo: Lenziran Newsvideo / YouTube]