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Slovakia says Iran denying access to arrested citizen



Bratislava: Slovakia's foreign ministry said Tuesday its diplomats in Iran have been denied access to a Slovak citizen arrested in Tehran last week for alleged espionage. "Our diplomats in Iran have been trying to visit him, but they have not been able to do so," the ministry spokesman Boris Gandel said. "The Iranian side has informed our diplomatic mission in Tehran that a Slovak citizen was arrested for allegedly threatening national security," he added.

Iranian state television broadcast last Wednesday what it said was the "confession" of a Westerner who said he had spied for the US Central Intelligence Agency. In a report entitled "The Hunter Trapped," it showed a long-haired man of European appearance in his thirties whose nationality was not given. According to the Slovak media, the arrested man is 26-year-old Matej Valuch, who left for Tehran last year to work in the telecommunications sector. He last contacted his parents in Slovakia in early December and has been unreachable since, Slovakia's leading broadsheet SME daily said.

Iranian TV said he was arrested in August after being kept under surveillance for several months by Iran's security services, and it broadcast footage of the suspect in Tehran streets and in a hotel in the capital. The channel said the suspect was accused of contacting Iranian scientists to seek information on "the country's scientific progress" using a Slovakia-based international recruitment agency that he had created. In the report, Valuch tells how he was recruited by a US agent he named as Steve Logano.

"He told me I had to keep in close contact with the people I met in Iran," he said, before adding his "apologies to the Iranian people." Tehran regularly accuses the United States of espionage in Iran, but it is rare for foreigners admitting such activities to be shown on television.

The state channel also showed footage of what it presented as other spies, but without saying if or when those suspects had been detained. It said US citizen Stefan Raymond, born in 1967, and Marc Antony Vandiar, born in South Africa in 1958, worked "for the CIA and tried to garner information on Iranian biotechnology."

A Moroccan named as Faisal, a "specialist in information technology," and a Malaysian Christian called Douglas Fernandez using the alias Ali Abderani also sought to acquire information on the Islamic republic's "scientific, nuclear and military progress," it said.

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