Suspects in Saudi Embassy Attack Appear in Tehran Court

A protester holds a placard during a demonstration against the execution of Shi'ite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia, outside the Saudi Arabian Embassy in London, Britain, January 3, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville

DUBAI, July 18 – Twenty-one men accused of storming Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran in January appeared in a Tehran court on Monday, Tasnim news agency reported, 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 Tasnim.

Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic relations with its Shi’ite rival Iran after protesters attacked 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 attack and Rouhani asked the judiciary to punish the protesters and to halt embassy attacks, which have recurred throughout the Islamic Republic 37-year history and often complicated its foreign policy.

Iranian demonstrators attacked the embassy of the United States in 1979, Kuwait in 1987, Saudi Arabia in 1988, Denmark in 2006 and Britain in 2011 – most of which have led to a breach in diplomatic relations.

None of the attackers in those incidents were convicted.

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

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 was quoted as saying by ISNA news agency.

“They are waiting to hear the verdicts for these rogue elements.”

After reaching a nuclear accord last year with world powers, Rouhani had sought to ease strained 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 their relations and the United Arab Emirates downgraded its relations.

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