Terrorism

Iranian Arab separatists plead not guilty to terror charge in Denmark

Iran's flag
Iran's flag JOE KLAMAR AFP

Three leaders of an Iranian Arab separatist group pleaded not guilty to financing and promoting terrorism in Iran with Saudi Arabia’s backing, as their trial opened in Denmark on Thursday. It is the second case this year of suspected terrorism activities involving Iran with activists operating on European soil. 

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Aged 39 to 50, the trio are members of the separatist organization ASMLA (Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz), which is based in Denmark and the Netherlands and which Iran considers a terrorist group.

And earlier this year, a court in Belgium convinced and Iranian diplomat of plotting a bomb attack against the meeting of the National Council of Resistance in the Parisian suburb of Villepinte, another group hostile to Tehran's regime. 

Danish citizen

In the ASMLA case, the three suspects, one of whom is a Danish citizen, have been held in custody in Denmark since February 2020.

Gert Dyrn, lawyer for the eldest of the three, told AFP that in his client’s opinion “what they are charged with is legitimate resistance towards an oppressive regime.”

“They are not denying receiving money from multiple sources, including Saudi Arabia, to help the movement and help them accomplish their political aim,” Dyrn says.

His client has lived as a refugee in Denmark since 2006.

According to the charge sheet seen by AFP, the three received around 30 million kroner (four million euros) for ASMLA and its armed branch, through bank accounts in Austria and the United Arab Emirates.

The trio is also accused of spying on people and organizations in Denmark between 2012 and 2020 for Saudi intelligence.

Finally, they are also accused of promoting terrorism and “encouraging the activities of the terrorist movement Jaish Al-Adl, which has activities in Iran, by supporting them with advice, promotion, and coordinating attacks.”

The case dates back to 2018 when one of the three was the target of a foiled attack on Danish soil believed to be sponsored by the Iranian regime in retaliation for the killing of 24 people in Ahvaz, southwestern Iran, in September 2018.

Tehran formally denied the attack plan in Denmark, but a Danish court last year jailed a Norwegian-Iranian for seven years for his role in the plot.

National Council of Resistance

The other group that invoked the ire of Tehran and that operates in Europe is the National Council of Resistance, the political arm of the Mujaheddin-e-Kalq (MEK,) that, like the ASMLA, is regarded as a terrorist organisation by Tehran. 

The MEK found refuge in Iraq after being exiled by Tehran and fought alongside Saddam Hussein's troops against Iran during the 1979 - 1988 war and was put on EU and US terrorist lists, until it was removed in 2009 and 2012 respectively. The MEK and its Council of Resistance have their headquarters in Auvers-sur-Oise, near Paris, and hold yearly mass meetings in the Villepinte conference center. 

According to accusations filed by a court in Antwerp in February this year, Belgian and French authorities foiled a plan to bomb the 2018 Villepinte meeting, masterminded by Iranian Vienna-based diplomat Assadolah Asadi, now 49, who was sentenced to 20 years in February this year.

(With AFP )

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