Source: Press TV
Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast says if necessary legal action will be taken to repossess the historical Qolhak Garden in Tehran. "I have heard that Tehran Municipality is following up on this issue and wherever needed, we [in the Foreign Ministry] will also take necessary [legal] measures," Mehmanparast told Fars News Agency on Sunday.
Qolhak Garden in north Tehran
Tehran Municipality announced on October 31 that it had filed a lawsuit against the British Embassy for having cut down and burnt 310 trees in a the garden.
According to Municipality spokesman Mohammad Hadi Ayyazi, the Article 7 Commission of Tehran's Islamic City Council informed Mayor Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf who, in turn, ordered a complaint to be lodged with the Judiciary.
The British Embassy issued a statement rejecting reports that its staff had burnt or cut down the garden's trees.
The statement claimed that the garden's water supply has been cut off for about three years due to northward development of Tehran subway. It added that 31 of the garden's trees dried and fell during a storm.
A senior environmentalist, who asked not to be named, rejected the British claims saying that a storm powerful enough to fell trees would have left its mark on the garden's nearby streets.
"...one should ask the British ambassador how come this storm has only damaged trees on the western side of the garden while the eastern side remains unharmed," he added.
Head of Tehran's Islamic City Council Mehdi Chamran said that the council has decided to fine the British Embassy more than USD 300,000 and has informed the Judiciary of this decision.
Spanning an area of 200,000 square meters, Qolhak Garden was first leased to the British Embassy by Mohammad Shah Qajar in 1872 as the summer residence of the ambassador. Although the lease contract expired under Reza Shah Pahlavi, the complex has remained in the possession of the embassy.
In 2006, some 162 members of Iran Majlis (Parliament) wrote a letter to the then Speaker, Gholamali Haddad-Adel, demanding an investigation into the British ownership of Qolhak Garden. The probe concluded that the garden belongs to the Iranian government as the documents offered by the British lacked legal basis.
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