DENMARK THWARTED IRAN PLOT TO KILL DISSIDENT
Tehran accused of plot to kill Iranian opposition activist in Copenhagen after bomb blast killed 25 in Ahvaz
Denmark has revealed an Iranian plot to assassinate an opponent of Tehran last month, shortly after a massive bomb attack killed 25 people in Iran’s city of Ahvaz.
Police shut down the capital Copenhagen, thwarting the plot by Iranian intelligence to assassinate the opposition figure, the Danish security chief said yesterday.
Finn Borch Andersen, head of the Danish intelligence agency Pet, said a huge manhunt last month had been part of a multinational effort to stop the Iranian intelligence operation.
Mr Borch Andersen said one suspect, a Norwegian national of Iranian descent, was arrested on October 21.
“He is charged with establishing an Iranian intelligence operation in Denmark, as well as having taken part in the assassination attempt,” he said.
“We are dealing with an Iranian intelligence agency planning an attack on Danish soil. Obviously, we can’t and won’t accept that.”
Copenhagen ground to a halt for the manhunt on September 28 after a car was seen near the residences of Iranian opposition activists.
Two of the country’s largest bridges were shut, temporarily leaving the capital cut off from the rest of the country. The borders with Germany and Sweden were also sealed.
Mr Borch Andersen said the unidentified suspect was being held under pre-trial detention until November 8, and had denied any wrongdoing.
He said the suspect had been seen taking photographs of an area populated by members of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz in Ringsted, about 65 kilometres south of Copenhagen.
Tehran claimed the group was behind an attack on a military parade in the city of Ahvaz on September 22, in which 25 people were killed. The group denied involvement.
After the attack, Tehran accused Denmark of harbouring members of the “terror group”.
Denmark’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Anders Samuelsen described the incident as “completely unacceptable” and said the Iranian ambassador had been summoned.
“In fact, the gravity of the matter is difficult to describe,” Mr Samuelsen said.
“That has been made crystal clear to the Iranian ambassador in Copenhagen today.”
Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said “further action against Iran will be discussed in the EU”.
The announcement came a month after French authorities claimed Tehran’s intelligence services were behind a plot to bomb a rally of Iranian opposition groups in Paris in June.
In that incident, two Belgians of Iranian descent arrested by Belgian police carrying half of kilogram of explosives and a detonator.
German police also arrested an Iranian diplomat based in Austria as part of the plot.
France’s intelligence agency concluded that Iran’s deputy minister and director general of intelligence, Saeid Hashemi Moghadam, had ordered the attack.
Twelve senior officials described as key players within Iran’s repressive regime should be targeted when President Donald Trump reimposes sanctions next month, a conservative US think tank said in a report yesterday.
The 12 – who include ministers, a former presidential candidate and senior judicial officials – are complicit in funnelling funds for terrorist plots abroad, forced confessions and the torture of rights activists, according to a think tank with strong links to the Trump administration.
The list includes the ministers of interior Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, and the ministers of intelligence and justice, who have responsibility for cracking down on dissent within Iran, said the Foundation for Defence of Democracies in Washington.
It said the 12 officials should be individually targeted using the Magnitsky Act, legislation passed in 2016 to target human rights offenders around the world, to freeze their assets and ban them from entering the US.
Many of those identified in the report came to prominence under Hassan Rouhani, who became president in 2013, and had a history of rights abuse. “They rose within the Iran bureaucracy because of their abuses, not in spite of them,” the report states.
The US has imposed restrictions on 55 entities and individuals for rights breaches under the Trump and Obama administrations.
New designations slowed in the run-up to the 2015 nuclear deal, which has now been dumped by Mr Trump, clearing the way for an increase in sanctions, said the FDD.
It said that many of the worst offenders remained untouched by sanctions and individual targeting of key regime leaders has the “potential to strengthen the morale of protesters, raise the concern of other democratic governments and undermine the self-serving narratives promoted by the regime”.
They include Ebrahim Raisi, a former presidential candidate who was complicit in the killing of thousands regime opponents in 1988.
The current minister of intelligence, Seyyed Mahmoud Alavi, is also on the list. He has not been sanctioned despite two previous incumbents and the ministry all being sanctioned by the Obama regime.
The FDD also identified Abolghassem Salavati, one of the harshest figures in Iran’s judiciary, who has overseen the case of Iranian-British charity administrator Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was jailed in 2016 for what her supporters say are trumpedup charges of spying.
Gholamhossein Gheibparvar, the head of the Basij religious police, which has been at the vanguard of efforts to subdue protests against the clerical leadership, is also on the list. It includes senior prison and education figures and officials who harnessed technology to crack down on nationwide protests last year.
Bill Browder, an investor turned campaigner who was behind the Magnitsky Act following the death of one of his employers in Russia, said the best way to change regime behaviour was to “go after them individually”.
But with senior regime figures keeping assets in Iran and rarely travelling abroad, critics said that strengthening of targeted sanctions would amount to “grandstanding” that would have little impact on policy in Tehran.
The key to changing Iranian attitudes is for European powers to bargain hard for reforms as they negotiate for continued trade in return for limitations on Iran’s nuclear ambitions, said Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the US-based Centre for Human Rights in Iran.
The FDD said it was optimistic that the Trump administration would act on its recommendations. “The feedback we have received in private discussions so far has been positive,” said Tzvi Kahn, the author of the report and FDD senior Iran analyst.
The US has imposed restrictions on 55 entities and individuals for rights breaches under the Trump and Obama administrations
Clockwise from top left, Iran’s Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli; presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi; Seyyed Mahmoud Alavi; Hossein Ashtari