TEHRAN, Iran – Iran's state media reported Wednesday that authorities have detained two German diplomats and accused them of playing a role in organizing deadly anti-government protests in December.
Germany's Foreign Ministry said it had no knowledge about any diplomats being detained and dismissed accusations that German officials had a hand in the demonstrations and clashes last month that left eight people dead.
Iran's state radio and official IRNA news agency both quoted an unnamed deputy intelligence minister on Wednesday as saying the German diplomats were detained on Dec. 27.
On that day, Iran's opposition supporters clashed with security forces in the capital's streets, hurling stones and setting their motorcycles, cars and vans ablaze. Authorities tried to disperse the demonstrators with tear gas, baton charges and warning shots. Dozens of police officers were injured, and hundreds of protesters were arrested in the clashes.
The intelligence official claimed the two German diplomats allegedly detained that day were handing out green wrist bands and T-shirts to demonstrators. Green is the color of Iran's opposition.
German Foreign Ministry spokesman Andreas Peschke rejected the allegations of meddling in Iran's internal affairs. He also said previous reports that two German diplomats were arrested on Dec. 27 were untrue, and said he was unaware of anyone having been detained since.
The disputed June 12 presidential vote divided Iran deeply and triggered massive street protests by an opposition that claimed the election was stolen by fraud. Iranian officials have since frequently accused the U.S. and Britain of orchestrating anti-government protests.
But Monday's allegations marked the first time Iran has openly accused Germany of playing a role in the turmoil that has rattled the country since the disputed presidential elections last June.
The intelligence official, who spoke during an interview with Iranian media, was also quoted as saying authorities had detained a close aide to opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi. The man was being held on charges of having contacts with the German intelligence services during the demonstrations, the official said.
Iran's hardline rulers have frequently tried to discredit opponents. They accuse them of being 'stooges' of enemies and of trying to topple the government.
The clerical regime's conflict with the more moderate opposition returned to the streets last month with the bloody Dec. 27 clashes.
Around 1,000 people were detained during those protests, the intelligence official was also quoted as saying by the semiofficial ISNA news agency. Police had previously said around 500 people had been arrested that day.
The December violence was the worst since authorities launched a harsh crackdown immediately after the disputed June 12 re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Iran has put more than a 100 prominent opposition activists and supporters on trial since August. At least five defendants in the mass trial have been sentenced to death and more than 80 others received prison terms ranging from six months up to 15 years.