October 4, 2019 / 11:52 AM / 14 days ago

Russia summons Iranian ambassador over journalist's arrest in Tehran

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s foreign ministry summoned the Iranian ambassador on Friday over the detention of a Russian journalist in Tehran, ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

Moscow has close economic and political ties with Tehran, and it is unusual for the latter to target Russian citizens.

“Due to the detention in Tehran of Russian citizen Yulia Yuzik, Iran’s ambassador has been invited to the foreign ministry to facilitate a quick clarification of the circumstances of the incident and the protection of the rights of the Russian citizen,” Zakharova wrote on her Facebook page.

In a brief phone conversation with her mother late on Thursday, Yuzik said security forces had broken into her hotel room and detained her on suspicion of having ties to Israeli intelligence services, her ex-husband Boris Voitsekhovsky told Reuters.

“The representative of Russia’s consulate is now at the Iranian foreign ministry trying to resolve this issue,” he said, adding that Yuzik had been in Iran at least once before, when she spent a few months working for a local media outlet.

“(This time) she just went there as a private person. She just went there, stayed at the hotel, chatted with local journalists,” he said.

Voitsekhovsky said Yuzik did not hold joint Israeli citizenship or a visa for that country and last visited Israel about 15 or 17 years ago to report on the Israeli army’s daily life for Russia’s “Komsomolskaya Pravda” newspaper.

Yuzik has no lawyer and an Iranian court will decide on Saturday whether to let her go or press formal charges and keep her in custody, Voitsekhovsky said.

Reporting by Ilya Zhegulev; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by David Goodman, Hugh Lawson and Giles Elgood

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