Iran frees Slovak paragliders held in spy row

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 13, 2013 3:59 AM
Iran frees Slovak paragliders held in spy row

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Two Slovak paragliders detained in Iran over accusations of spying have returned home, a day after their prime minister held talks in Tehran, Slovakia's government said on Friday.

The pair were among eight Slovaks arrested in Iran in May on suspicion of taking photographs of restricted areas. Six were freed in September.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico met Iranian officials in Tehran on Thursday to discuss the case, and the two men returned to Slovakia early on Friday, the government said on its website.

"I am convinced that if the (Slovak) state had not got involved, if we had not pursued the maximum political, diplomatic but also intelligence efforts, then certainly they would not be free today," Fico said.

Slovak media had reported the group was detained near the central Iranian city of Isfahan, where there is a uranium conversion facility.

Iran has frequently leveled accusations of espionage against both foreign nationals and Iranians. But in recent months there has been a thaw in relations with the outside world, made possible by the election of a relative moderate, Hassan Rouhani, as president.

Iran reached a breakthrough deal last month with six world powers on curbing its nuclear program in return for a limited easing of international sanctions.

(Reporting by Jason Hovet; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)