Iran TerrorismIran's Ahmadinejad linked to Vienna murder probe

Iran’s Ahmadinejad linked to Vienna murder probe

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Reuters: Austrian prosecutors have launched an investigation into whether Iran’s president-elect was involved in the 1989 assassination of a Kurdish leader in Vienna, the Interior Ministry said on Tuesday. A ministry spokesman confirmed that prosecutors had started a probe by asking the ministry’s anti-terrorism task force to investigate the case, but declined to provide any details. Reuters

By Louis Charbonneau

VIENNA – Austrian prosecutors have launched an investigation into whether Iran’s president-elect was involved in the 1989 assassination of a Kurdish leader in Vienna, the Interior Ministry said on Tuesday.

A ministry spokesman confirmed that prosecutors had started a probe by asking the ministry’s anti-terrorism task force to investigate the case, but declined to provide any details.

“The prosecutor’s office has made the request,” ministry spokesman Rudolf Gollia said.

The state prosecutor’s office also confirmed that it was reopening the unsolved murder case.

Tehran reacted angrily, saying the Foreign Ministry summoned the Austrian ambassador to demand an explanation.

Austrian Green Party security spokesman Peter Pilz told a news conference there was “credible evidence” that Iranian President-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was involved in the 1989 assassination of Iranian exile Kurdish opposition leader Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou and two other Kurdish politicians in Vienna.

“Yesterday the state prosecutor’s office asked the Anti-Terrorism Task Force to begin an investigation into the allegations about the 1989 triple murder,” Pilz told reporters.

In addition to Ahmadinejad, who was a senior member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards at the time of the killings, Pilz said former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was at the centre of the newly reopened investigation.

Pilz said it was up to the prosecutor’s office to decide whether to request that Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad be questioned.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi denied the accusation, saying it came out of “Zionist circles”.

“It is a baseless and funny accusation. We summoned the Austrian ambassador on Tuesday to give some explanation about it,” he said.

“It would be better if Austrian officials thought about the two countries’ good relations instead of becoming a tool in the hands of those who want to create tension,” Asefi said.

ANTI-TERRORISM FORCE

Pilz said his accusation was based on information he received from an Iranian journalist living in France who Pilz calls only “Witness D”. Pilz gave this information to the Interior Ministry and the Anti-Terrorism Task Force, which then forwarded it to the state prosecutor’s office for evaluation.

“I cannot personally say whether the allegations of Witness D are true, but I can say that they are credible,” Pilz said.

Ernst Kloiber, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, said they would like to interview Witness D.

Witness D’s information came from one of the alleged gunmen, who contacted Witness D in 2001 but later drowned, Pilz said.

One of the reasons that Witness D appeared credible is that he knows details that only someone with access to Austrian investigators’ classified files could know, he said.

Pilz said Witness D had no ties to any exiled Iranian political groups in France.

Many members of the National Council of Resistance of Iran and its militant wing, the People’s Mujahideen Organisation, are based in Paris. Both oppose Iran’s Islamic government.

Several former hostages who were held by Iranian militants after the 1979 seizure of the U.S. embassy have accused Ahmadinejad of taking part in the 444-day hostage drama which led Washington to break ties with Tehran.

The president-elect’s office and several hostage-takers have denied Ahmadinejad helped storm the embassy. Pilz said that Witness D had no information to support the allegations that Ahmadinejad was involved in the U.S. hostage-taking.

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