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British embassy staff facing Iran trial for allegedly provoking protests

[JURIST] Iranian employees at the British Embassy in Iran [official website] will face trial over accusations they contributed to the political protests that followed Iran's recent disputed presidential election [BBC backgrounder] according to statements [Bloomberg report] made Friday by Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, the head of Iran's Guardian Council for the Constitution [official website, in Persian]. While Jannati did not state the official charges the staff may face, he did say that confessions had been made [AP report]. Nine embassy employees were arrested [CNN report] last month following protests over the June 12 re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], but seven have been released. Jannati's comments drew the ire of much of the European community, and European Union (EU) nations are currently considering [NYT report] a British proposal to withdraw all diplomats from Iran. Later Friday, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband [official profile] said in a statement [press release] that the British government was seeking clarification of the issue, and rejected claims that its embassy staff played a role in the protests.

The post-election protests reportedly resulted in at least 17 deaths and hundreds of arrests [JURIST report]. Iranian authorities have said that those arrested would be dealt with by the courts [Reuters report]. Human rights groups have characterized the arrests as political repression [JURIST report], saying that Iranian authorities are using the protests to "engage in what appears to be a major purge of reform-oriented individuals."

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