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Six Iranian journalists expelled from Saudi: state TV

Iran lawmakers back switch to Friday-Saturday weekend
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Saudi Arabia has expelled six Iranian journalists after they were arrested at a major Muslim pilgrimage site, Iranian state media reported on Wednesday, adding that the reason remains unknown.

“They were arrested on Tuesday last week while recording the recitation of the Holy Quran in The Prophet’s Mosque in Medina,” state television said.

“After being questioned for several hours they were taken to the Central Police Detention Centre in Medina with no reason being given,” it added.

Mainly Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia, a long-time regional rival of mostly Shiite-majority Iran, has not publicly commented on the reported arrests and expulsions.

“We still do not know the exact causes of this issue,” state television chief Peyman Jebelli told the broadcaster from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport where he met the journalists on their return to Iran.

The channel said the reporters had been in Saudi Arabia to cover the annual hajj pilgrimage, which will this year be held in mid-June.

Saudi Arabia imposed a near-decade long ban on Iranians attending the umrah, the year-round minor pilgrimage, when the two countries broke off diplomatic relations.

The regional powerhouses severed links in 2016 after Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran were attacked following the execution by Riyadh of Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr.

Riyadh also banned foreigners from entering the country for the hajj during the Covid pandemic.

Pilgrims from the Islamic republic were allowed to attend last year’s hajj after Tehran and Riyadh agreed in a China-brokered deal to restore ties and reopen their respective embassies.

The umrah pilgrimage had remained off limits to Iranians until this year, and its resumption was touted as a sign of thawing relations.

Last month, when pilgrims left Tehran for Riyadh for the umrah, they were seen off at a ceremony attended by the Saudi ambassador to Iran, Abdullah bin Saud al-Anazi.

Muslims can make the umrah pilgrimage to Mecca at any time of year, in contrast to the hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam which takes place on specific dates according to the lunar calendar.

 

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AFP

Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.







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