Iran says German freed in prisoner swap

Iran said on Monday that Ahmad Khalili, who was arrested in Germany on a US request and subject to extradition to the United States, flew home on Sunday with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who had been in Germany to attend a security conference in Munich. (File/AFP)
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Updated 18 February 2020

Iran says German freed in prisoner swap

  • Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have arrested dozens of dual nationals over recent years, mostly on espionage charges
  • Rights activists have accused Iran of arresting a number of dual nationals to try to win concessions from other countries

DUBAI: Iran has freed a German citizen sentenced to three years in jail, the Iranian judiciary said on Tuesday, a day after Tehran said a detained Iranian accused of violating US sanctions had returned home from Germany.

“On Monday, a German citizen returned home. He was arrested while ago and was sentenced to three years in jail for taking pictures from sensitive places,” judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said in a televised weekly news conference. He did not give further details.

Iran said on Monday that Ahmad Khalili, who was arrested in Germany on a US request and subject to extradition to the United States, flew home on Sunday with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who had been in Germany to attend a security conference in Munich.

“We insisted that first the Iranian citizen should return home...then the German citizen was allowed to leave Iran on Monday,” he said.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have arrested dozens of dual nationals over recent years, mostly on espionage charges.

Esmaili also said two French academics will appear in the court next month. France has called for the release of French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah and her French colleague Roland Marchal, who had been detained since June.

Iran has rejected France’s call as an interference at Tehran’s state matters.

“We do not recognize dual nationality. She is Iranian. We do not let other states to interfere in our judiciary matters. Their court session will be on March 3,” Esmaili said.

Adelkhah’s lawyer told Reuters last month that Iran had dropped spying charges against Adelkhah but she faced other security-related charges.

The issue has complicated ties between Tehran and Paris, both parties to a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. Washington exited the deal in 2018 and has reimposed sanctions that has hit Iran’s economy hard.

Rights activists have accused Iran of arresting a number of dual nationals to try to win concessions from other countries — a charge that the Islamic Republic has regularly dismissed.

A Chinese-American detained in Iran in 2016 and later charged with spying was freed in December and an imprisoned Iranian was released by Washington in return.


Palestinian minister claims Israeli police physically abused him

Fadi Hidmi. (Supplied)
Updated 41 min 45 sec ago

Palestinian minister claims Israeli police physically abused him

  • East Jerusalem — with a population of 350,000 — has been all but ignored by the Israeli Ministry of Health in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic

AMMAN: Palestinian Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Fadi Hidmi was released by Israeli police on Friday afternoon after being arrested for the fourth time without charge.

Ministry spokesman Awad Awad told Arab News that Hidmi had been “warned” not to “move around” or “do any work in” Jerusalem in accordance with measures being taken to minimize the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Awad also claimed that Hidmi had been physically abused by the police, saying that the minister was “punched in the face and forced to wear a mask with blood on it.”

CCTV at Hidmi’s Mount of Olives house show that he was manhandled by Israeli police during his arrest in the early hours of Friday.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld confirmed the arrest.

Rosenfeld told the Israeli press that Hidmi was arrested “on suspicion of Palestinian activities in Jerusalem.”

He said police searched Hidmi’s home and confiscated documents as well as “large sums of money. Israeli media said that the police had confiscated NIS10,000 ($2,750) found in the house.

Hidmi, a Jerusalem resident, was the director of the Jerusalem Chamber of Commerce and Industry before accepting his current job in the Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh’s government.

Before Hidmi’s release on Friday, Shtayyeh wrote on social media: “Israel targets who work for #Jerusalem, even at such critical moments as we work to save our people's lives from #COVID19.”

East Jerusalem — with a population of 350,000 — has been all but ignored by the Israeli Ministry of Health in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Jamil Kousa, director of the St. Joseph hospital, told Palestine TV that he was only informed on March 25 that his hospital should be prepared to accept patients with COVID-19.

Ahmad Buderi, the coordinator of the Jerusalem Alliance — an organization launched to help combat COVID-19 — has said that people in the city are depending almost solely on local initiatives to deal with the pandemic.

Before his arrest, Hidmi launched the website madad.ps to coordinate the distribution of urgenly needed food and medical supplies to the city’s residents.

Walid Nammour, secretary-general of the Jerusalem Hospital Network, estimates that the city’s six hospitals need $7 million to to deal with the potential spread of COVID-19 in East Jerusalem.

Nammour told Arab News that 300-400 ventilators are needed and that only 26 are available at present.