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In Iran 9 suspects in Saudi embassy attack appear in court

Khamenei, the highest authority in the Islamic Republic, has said that the attack on the Saudi Embassy was "very bad and wrong" and had "damaged the country and Islam".

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Nine suspects in Saudi embassy attack appear in Iranian court play

Nine suspects in Saudi embassy attack appear in Iranian court

(Arab News)

Nine people accused of storming Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran in January appeared in a Tehran court on Monday, Fars news agency reported, a few weeks after President Hassan Rouhani urged the judiciary to take action.

The suspects are accused of "disturbing the public order and damaging embassy buildings", according to state media. Twelve other suspects were absent from the first hearing, Fars said.

Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic relations with its Shi'ite Muslim rival Iran after protesters stormed the kingdom's embassy in Tehran and consulate in Mashhad following Riyadh's execution of a prominent Saudi Shi'ite cleric.

The Iranian government promptly condemned the assault and Rouhani, keen to improve Tehran's long-strained relations with neighbours and the West, asked the judiciary to punish the protesters and prevent further attacks on diplomatic missions.

Such violence has recurred throughout the Islamic Republic 37-year history and often complicated its foreign policy. Protesters attacked the embassy of the United States in 1979, Kuwait in 1987, Saudi Arabia in 1988, Denmark in 2006 and Britain in 2011 - leading in most case to a breach in diplomatic relations. None of the assailants was convicted.

Iran's judiciary announced in April that more than 100 suspects had been arrested over the attack on the Saudi missions and 48 had been charged. All were released on bail.

At Monday's initial court session, a 25-year-old defendant said he was informed of the protest action against the Saudi embassy by groups on social media which "are said to be linked to the Revolutionary Guards", according to the semi-official news agency ISNA.

The Revolutionary Guards Corps is the elite, strongly anti-Western and most powerful military and security force in Iran. Some Guards commanders condemned the attack as a plot against Iran and suggested "foreign agents" had been behind it.

 

ATTACK "DAMAGED" IRAN, KHAMENEI SAID

"I didn't know the protest did not have a permit...I am regretful as I broke the heart of the Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei)," ISNA quoted the unnamed defendant as saying.

Khamenei, the highest authority in the Islamic Republic, has said that the attack on the Saudi Embassy was "very bad and wrong" and had "damaged the country and Islam".

Another defendant at Monday's hearing testified that he was going on an errand to a pharmacy but was arrested by the security forces when he stopped his car to watch as protesters set fire to the embassy building.

Speaking in the judiciary's annual gathering in June, Rouhani said the attackers had been identified and urged the courts to take action.

"People want to know how the judiciary will deal with those who attacked the embassy against the law and Iran's national security," Rouhani said. "They are waiting to hear the verdicts for these rogue elements."

Since reaching a landmark agreement with world powers last year on curbing its disputed nuclear programme, Rouhani has sought to repair relations with neighbours and Western powers.

But the embassy assaults dealt a blow to that effort and caused Saudi allies like Bahrain and Sudan to sever diplomatic relations. The United Arab Emirates downgraded its relations.

The second hearing in the case will be held on Tuesday, according to the state news agency IRNA.

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