Iran TerrorismInterpol puts 5 Iranians on wanted list

Interpol puts 5 Iranians on wanted list

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AP: Interpol put an ex-Iranian intelligence chief, a former leader of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, three other Iranians and a Lebanese militant on its most-wanted list Wednesday for a 1994 bombing that killed 85 people at a Jewish center in Argentina. The Associated Press

By JAMEY KEATEN

MARRAKECH, Morocco (AP) — Interpol put an ex-Iranian intelligence chief, a former leader of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, three other Iranians and a Lebanese militant on its most-wanted list Wednesday for a 1994 bombing that killed 85 people at a Jewish center in Argentina.

The international coordinating agency announced the move after delegates at its general assembly sided with Argentine prosecutors and turned back a lobbying blitz by Iranian envoys trying to avoid having their country linked to Argentina’s worst terrorist attack.

The dispute was steeped in geopolitical drama at a time of high tension between Iran and the West over Tehran’s suspect nuclear program and American claims that Iran is supplying weapons to insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan — claims that the Islamic Republic denies.

While Iranian envoys accused Israel and the United States of trying to use Interpol to taint Iran’s image, most delegates agreed the case was purely a police matter. The result was a vote of 76-14 to add the names, with 26 abstentions, delegates said after the closed-door session.

Interpol Secretary-General Ronald K. Noble said the decision “means that the basis for it is police and crime issues, and not any broader geopolitical issues.”

The decision to issue Interpol “red notices” is the equivalent of putting the six men on its most-wanted list. The notices cannot force countries to arrest or extradite suspects, but can put government leaders on the spot.

“A red notice chills travel — limits travel — and places the government in power at risk of explaining why a person for whom a red notice is issued is able to move freely,” Noble said in an interview with The Associated Press.

No one has been brought to justice for the bombing at the Jewish community center in Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires. A van packed with explosives exploded on July 18, 1994, leveling the seven-story building while killing 85 people and wounding 200.

It was the second bombing targeting Jews in Argentina during the 1990s. A March 1992 blast destroyed the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires and killed 29 people in an attack that also was blamed on Hezbollah.

Several civilians and former police officers accused of aiding the Jewish center bombers were cleared in a trial three years ago.

Prosecutors contend the plot was hatched at a 1993 meeting in Mashad, Iran, and the Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah was entrusted with carrying it out. They say witness accounts, other testimony and telephone and travel documents prove the meeting occurred.

Iranian envoys said they have evidence showing such a meeting never took place.

The Iranians targeted are former intelligence chief Ali Fallahian; Mohsen Rabbani, former cultural attache at Iran’s embassy in Buenos Aires; a former diplomat, Ahmad Reza Asghari; Mohsen Rezaei, former head of the Revolutionary Guards; and Ahmad Vahidi, a Revolutionary Guards general. Hezbollah militant Imad Moughnieh, one of the world’s most sought terrorism suspects, also was named.

Two years ago Interpol sided with Iran in the same case, after the Argentine judge then leading the investigation was fired for “having acted corruptly,” Interpol said in a statement.

Prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who took over the investigation and bolstered the evidence file, issued the new arrest warrants for the six men in Argentina. Interpol’s executive committee backed his case in March and Wednesday’s vote by the assembly overruled an objection by Iran.

“We have achieved something that we have been hoping for a long time,” Nisman said after the Interpol vote. “No effort will be spared so that these people are brought to justice.”

He rejected Iranian claims the vote was political. “This is a police matter,” he said. “We don’t have anything against the government of Iran or the people of Iran.”

Asked after the vote whether Tehran would hand over the suspects, Iranian delegate Alireza Deihin responded: “Of course not.”

“These are baseless accusations, fabricated accusations, political accusations,” Alireza said. “Justice has been overruled by political considerations.”

Mohammad Ali Pakshir, an Iranian legal adviser, argued before the vote that the United States and Israel “want Interpol to issue the red notices to be able to tell the world: ‘Look, they are terrorists.'”

Iranian delegates had handed out dossiers in several languages arguing that Argentina’s investigation was flawed, if not corrupt, and that some witnesses cited by investigators were criminals. It also noted that Iran had quickly condemned the bombing.

Israeli and U.S. envoys kept a low profile during the meeting, concerned about not giving the impression of a politicized vote.

But U.S. Ambassador to Argentina Earl Anthony Wayne called the vote a “critical step in international efforts in the fight against terrorism.” He added in a statement released in Buenos Aires that the decision puts “five former and current Iranian government officials one step closer to being found responsible for the planning, financing and execution of the brutal attack.”

Victims’ relatives in the Argentine capital lauded the decision.

“We will keep insisting, because pressure is very important. It’s very important that Argentina not let up in demanding them for trial,” said Adriana Resfield, whose sister was killed.

Noble said disputes over naming suspects as international fugitives are rare at Interpol. Only one other red notice request, involving the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan, was contested among about 2,800 that Interpol has issued during his seven-year tenure, he said.

“Iran made it very clear that it was ready to cooperate with Argentina” on a bilateral basis, Noble said. Interpol said it still hoped the two countries would resolve the issue themselves.

Associated Press writer Bill Cormier in Buenos Aires, Argentina, contributed to this report.

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