Tehran ac­cused of plot to kill Ira­nian op­po­si­tion ac­tivist in Copen­hagen af­ter bomb blast killed 25 in Ah­vaz

The National - News - - FRONT PAGE - GARETH BROWNE

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

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