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Three Iranians Ordered Out of Britain

July 24, 1992

LONDON (AP) _ Britain on Friday ordered three Iranians to leave the country for ″reasons of national security,″ the Home Office said. British press reports said the men were suspected of plotting to assassinate author Salman Rushdie.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said the three - two Iranian Embassy employees and an Iranian traveling on a student visa - had been given seven days to leave Britain or face deportation.

Press Association, Britain’s national news agency, said they were suspected of being Iranian agents sent to Britain to carry out the ″fatwa,″ or death sentence, pronounced against Rushdie by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Khomeini accused Rushdie of blaspheming Islam in his novel ″The Satanic Verses.″ Rushdie has been in hiding since February 1989.

Rushdie has recently been accepting public engagements, and Press Association said the three Iranians had come close enough to the author to be spotted by his body guards.

A spokesman at the Iranian Embassy, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the expulsion orders were to retaliate against Tehran’s ordering a British diplomat out of Iran earlier this week. He said the accusations were false.

The Foreign Office identified the Iranians as Mehdi Sayed Sadeghi and Mahmoud Medhi Soltani, both embassy employees, and Gassem Vakhshiteh, who was in Britain on a student visa.

A spokeswoman for the office said on condition of anonymity that Sadeghi was being expelled because of involvement in ″unacceptable intelligence activities,″ and that Soltani and Vakhshiteh were ordered out because of ″their association with a foreign intelligence service.″

Iran announced Tuesday it was expelling a British diplomat for ″violating diplomatic norms.″ Geoffrey Brammer, 27, a third secretary at the British mission in Tehran, was asked to leave within a month.

The British Foreign Office said Brammer had done nothing ″inconsistent with his diplomatic status or Iranian law.″ The Home Office is responsible for immigration and law and order issues.

The Iranian Embassy spokesman said Sadeghi worked in the passport office at the embassy and Soltani was in the public relations department, and that both had been at the embassy for more than 18 months. The spokesman said Vakhshiteh was a student in Britain.

The Foreign Office said the investigations into the men began before Brammer’s expulsion and that the cases were ″totally unconnected.″