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THURSDAY, 17 APR 2014
05:00 PM Beirut time
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Iran frees Slovak paragliders accused of spying: Report
Agence France Presse
Robert Fico, center, chairman of the Smer-Social Democrats (Smer-SD) celebrates with party members in the early morning on Sunday, March 11, 2012, in Bratislava, Slovakia. (AP Photo/CTK, Jano Koller)
Robert Fico, center, chairman of the Smer-Social Democrats (Smer-SD) celebrates with party members in the early morning on Sunday, March 11, 2012, in Bratislava, Slovakia. (AP Photo/CTK, Jano Koller)
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TEHRAN: Iran freed two Slovak paragliders arrested in May for allegedly spying, state media reported, but the Bratislava government said Thursday it was still working to secure their release.

"Two citizens who were arrested for violating the laws of the Islamic republic of Iran were released and handed over to their embassy" on Wednesday, the official Iranian news agency IRNA said.

The two were the last of eight Slovak paragliders who were detained in May, after the remaining six were released in September.

The government in Slovakia was unable to say if the pair had been released, adding that it would issue an update on the situation later Thursday.

"I can confirm that Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico and Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak are negotiating with Iran's First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri in Tehran so that the release of the remaining two paragliders detained in Iran in May can be finally closed," Fico's spokeswoman Beatrice Hudakova said in a statement.

In July, Iran's judiciary said it was probing nine people -- the eight Slovaks and one Iranian -- arrested for "illegal activities, including photographing restricted areas" in the central Isfahan province, which is home to nuclear facilities including the Natanz uranium enrichment plant.

The city of Isfahan lies some 330 kilometres (200 miles) south of the capital.

The international community has imposed a battery of sanctions against Iran, accusing it of using its civilian nuclear programme as a cover for developing a weapons capability -- charges Tehran flatly denies.

Friends of the paragliders have told AFP they were not spies, but were travelling to film documentaries from a bird's-eye view.

They said the men were in Iran to collect material for a second film, after making a documentary last year on paragliding over the Himalayas.

Senior Iranian prosecutor Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie charged that the men had smuggled in unspecified "equipment".

The paragliders ran into trouble for using two-band walkie talkies reportedly banned in Iran, as well as cameras designed for extreme sports.

 
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