Iran 'tourism' truck sparks Science Museum security alert

Iran is Great truck Image copyright Brendan Cormier
Image caption Brendan Cormier tweeted this image with the caption: "A lorry with the words 'Iran is great' parks on Exhibition Road. Police react by blocking off the street."

A mobile home being used to promote Iran was at the centre of a major security alert in central London.

Cristian Ivan, 42, from Romania, "fell in love with Iran" when he visited in 2010. He is now travelling across Europe in a van with the slogan "Iran is Great" on the side.

Counter-terror police were alerted to a "suspicious vehicle" when he parked it outside the Science Museum on Monday.

The museum was evacuated and roads were shut for two hours for investigations.

Mr Ivan said he was not aware at the time of having done anything wrong because security officials had watched him park and had not indicated there was a problem when his family left the van close to other parked cars.

Image copyright Cristian Ivan
Image caption The Science Museum said it had carried out a full evacuation on police orders
Image copyright Cristian Ivan
Image caption Witnesses reported seeing police dogs searching the area

"Apparently there were announcements in the Science Museum asking for the owner of the van with German number plates to get in touch but we didn't hear them because we were next door in the Natural History Museum. My son Lucas is eight. He loves dinosaurs and had chosen to visit the Natural History Museum first."

Mr Ivan, and his wife Audrey who is French, home-school their children and as part of their education they visit museums around the world.

"When we came back to the van I saw the windows had been smashed. I wondered who could have done it, but then I was told it was the police," he said.

"I found out later from some security officers that police were worried because of the foreign plates and the strange writing on the van."

The museum said it had not initiated the security alert but it had followed police orders to carry out a full evacuation.

Mr Ivan said he thought it was the "peace" message on the van that had triggered the police response. The Met said it does not comment on matters of security.

"I do respect the law and I was not aware I could not park there. They could have given me a ticket or clamped me but because of the writing they treated the van as if it was suspicious," Mr Ivan said.

"I don't have a problem with the police breaking a window in order to protect other people but they should have left a note or explained why they did this."

He said the reason he was promoting his independent Iran is Great campaign was to combat negative prejudice although he was not receiving any money from the Iranian government for doing so and had refused money from Tehran's ministry of tourism because he said he did not support the government's policies.

Image copyright other
Image copyright other

A trip round Europe and a love of Iran

  • Cristian Ivan is Romanian and read economics at university. His wife is French and worked as a secondary school teacher
  • They have been based in northern Germany for the past 25 years
  • They rent out their home in Germany for 2,000 euros a month and live on a budget of 500 euros a month travelling in the van across Europe
  • They have visited between 25 and 30 European countries promoting Iran and home-schooling their children on the road
  • They had been in the UK to attend the Hesfes home-schooling festival in Wales
  • They arrived in London on Sunday night and went to the Science Museum on Monday
  • They plan to travel to France and Germany and will spend the winter in Dubai
  • This is the second time the van has aroused police counter-terror suspicions. The first time was in Germany. Police raided their home but no charges were ever brought.

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