TEHRAN – Iranian border police have arrested a foreign woman on suspicion of spying, a police official told state radio on Saturday.
The semi-official Fars new agency initially quoted Ahmad Geravand, deputy commander of state border police, as telling a news conference his guards had seized a “female American spy,” but Geravand later said her nationality was not clear.
The woman was captured at Jolfa, on Iran’s northern border with Azerbaijan, close to Armenia. Fars said she had entered from Armenia.
“On January 5 a woman with foreign citizenship who was at the Jolfa border filming police stations and all the border traffic with advanced cameras was arrested by Jolfa border forces,” Geravand told national radio in an interview.
“She once said she was an American citizen but at other times she said she was a Swiss citizen. She mentioned the names of different countries,” he said.
The ISNA news agency quoted Geravand as saying the woman was “on a mission for the Americans to film the borders” and had been turned over to the intelligence ministry.
Initial reports of the arrest emerged earlier this week. Fars said on Thursday that a 55-year-old U.S. woman identified as Hall Talayan had been arrested trying to cross the border without a visa, and espionage equipment was found in her teeth.
Later that day, however, Iran’s Arabic language television al-Alam said the arrest report was false.
Saturday’s news reports gave Talayan’s age as 34. The arrest happened on Wednesday, they said.
The news comes at a time of high tension between Tehran and Washington, which have been in a long-running dispute over Iran’s nuclear program.
The two countries have had no diplomatic relations since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution but both will be represented at talks in Istanbul later this month which Western countries hope will address the nuclear stand-off.
Three Americans — two men and a woman — were arrested in July 2009 near the Iran-Iraq border on suspicion of spying. The woman, Sarah Shourd, was released on bail a of $500,000 in September and returned to the United States. She has said the three of them strayed across the border while hiking in Iraq.
Her two companions remain in jail awaiting trial, which was postponed in November due to Shourd’s absence.