Riyadh-based TV station claimed man assaulted during speech by Ali Akbar Velayati, a political adviser to Khamenei
An Iranian journalist and rights activist has accused an Islamic republic governor of slapping her as she attempted to deliver an interview to a government channel in another country.
Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was delivering a speech in front of the House of Ministers in Riyadh at the weekend, according to a video and audio clip posted by Sayidh International News (SIN).
In the video, a man can be seen walking towards Velayati and slapping him in the face after Velayati attempts to stop the discussion.
“He [the assailant] did not follow the guidelines to be friendly and be polite,” the journalist told SIN.
The incident is not the first time Iranian officials have been accused of bullying or physical violence while on foreign trips.
In 2012, Iranian navy commander Habibollah Sayyari was filmed slapping a journalist during a visit to Israel, an incident the regime denied.
The incident is also the latest in a series of embarrassments for the Saudi government. Last week, a spokeswoman for the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said Iran was part of a terror group because it had trained Houthi militants to carry out attacks in Yemen. The organisation rejected the allegation.
Saudi Arabia also came under fire in the UK last week after some cabinet ministers said the kingdom may be considered complicit in war crimes by its critics.
Saudi Arabia denied the accusations and said it is a victim of “purely fabricated claims”.
Ali Araghi, a prominent Saudi human rights lawyer, has said Saudi Arabia is “dangerously close to seeing all religious and political freedoms disappear”.
Videos published by Sayidh International News appear to show the aftermath of the verbal assault, with Velayati falling and having to sit in a chair after the attack.
Velayati is the most senior Iranian government official to visit Saudi Arabia, the state-linked Saudi Press Agency said, following a visit by Prince Mohammed bin Salman last week.
Iran and Saudi Arabia have significant differences in policy on several regional issues, and the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and Saudi Arabia’s deputy crown prince have discussed ways to resolve differences between the two countries.
Riyadh said on Sunday it had “intervened as a last resort” to limit a terror attack in Tehran last year that claimed at least 18 lives.
Saudi Arabia has consistently blamed Tehran for any violence in its country, which has also earned them a reputation for their confrontational stance.