Amid an escalating diplomatic row, the Iranian regime has turned the heat on British ambassador to Tehran Rob Macaire. While the judiciary has declared him "persona non grata", regime supporters have burnt his effigy.
Macaire has incurred the regime's wrath on suspicion of provoking and organizing anti-establishment protests which erupted after Tehran admitted to "unintentionally" downing a Ukrainian jetliner, killing all 176 onboard. The envoy was briefly detained in Tehran on January 11, 2020.
In diplomacy, a "persona non grata" is a foreigner whose entry and stay in a country is prohibited by the country's government. This applies to foreign diplomats who are otherwise protected by diplomatic immunity from any kinds of arrest or prosecution.
'Chop him to small pieces'
The Iranian judiciary accused Macaire of interfering in Iran's internal affairs, the Guardian reported. "Under international law, such a person is a 'persona non grata'. People expect the person to be expelled and that is also what international law calls for," judiciary spokesperson, Gholamhossein Esmaili said in a statement. "Based on international regulations, the British ambassador in Iran is an undesirable element," Esmaili added.
Labelling of Macaire by the judiciary spokesperson as "persona non grata" is not legally binding, and the final decision on the diplomat's expulsion would be taken by Iran's foreign ministry.
Prominent hardline Iranian cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda said earlier that Macaire's expulsion would be "the best thing that can happen to him", otherwise, the supporters of slain General Qassem Soleimani would "chop him to small pieces".
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the government had received "no formal indication" that Mr Macaire will be expelled from Iran. "It would be deeply regrettable if that were the case," Raab told the House of Commons. "We need to keep the diplomatic channels open, and futile gestures like that are not going to resolve the problems that the regime in Tehran face."
Outrage over missile attack on plane
Anti-government protests have swept through Iran after it admitted to a missile attack on the Ukrainian passenger jet. While citizens have hit the streets, many Iranian journalists resigned from state broadcasters in protest against the regime's lie initially. The victims of the plane crash were mostly Iranians and Iranian-Canadians.