Iranian regime targets opposition members in Europe

Iranian regime targets opposition members in Europe
Four Iranians have been charged with an attempted terrorist attack on a rally organized by an exiled Iranian opposition group in Villepinte, near Paris, part of plans by Iranian authorities to carry out attacks on several European countries. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 26 November 2020

Iranian regime targets opposition members in Europe

Iranian regime targets opposition members in Europe
  • In January last year, the European Union introduced sanctions in response to attacks planned by Iranian authorities in a series of European countries

BRUSSELS: The trial of four Iranians charged with an attempted terrorist attack on a rally organized by an exiled Iranian opposition group in Villepinte, near Paris, begins Nov. 27 in Antwerp, Belgium. It is not the first time that Iran has been accused of plotting or carrying out attacks against opponents in Europe.

In January last year, the European Union introduced sanctions in response to attacks planned by Iranian authorities in a series of European countries. The EU froze the assets of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), as well as two individuals — Saeid Hashemi Moghadam, a senior official in the MOIS, and Assadollah Assadi. The latter is one of those who will stand trial in Antwerp, charged with plotting the Villepinte attack on the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran.

The sanctions were also a result of an investigation by The Netherlands’ intelligence services, which concluded that the Iranian regime was behind the assassinations of two Dutch nationals of Iranian origin — Ali Motamed, an opponent of the Tehran regime, in Almere in 2015, and Ahmad Molla Nissi, one of the leaders of the Arab separatist movement in Iran (ASMLA), in The Hague in 2017

In a letter to Parliament, the Dutch authorities claimed to have uncovered “strong indications that Iran was involved in the liquidation of two Dutch citizens of Iranian origin.”

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READ MORE: Two years after failed bomb plot, Iranian opposition rallies backers online

Suspects in plot to bomb Iranian opposition rally in France to be sent to Belgium

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And in 2018 Denmark revealed that an Iranian “agency” had attempted to eliminate three ASMLA members in exile on Danish territory. The Danish government recalled its ambassador to Tehran as a result of the plot.

“Denmark cannot in any way allow individuals linked to Iranian intelligence services to instigate attacks on people. It is the Iranian government, the Iranian state that is behind (this),” Anders Samuelsen, the Danish foreign minister at the time, said on October 30, 2018.

As a result of these cases, the European Union has toughened its tone against Iran. The scope of its sanctions to date remains diplomatic  — including the recall of ambassadors, the expulsion of diplomats, and the freezing of financial assets. The Antwerp trial, however, will shift the denunciation of Iranian state action on European soil into the judicial sphere and is expected to further isolate the Iranian regime.

The regime has been named as the sponsor of the attempted attack in Villepinte by the European intelligence services and by the Belgian justice system.

Assadi reportedly used his Iranian diplomatic passport as a cover for his espionage work for the MOIS, which involved collecting information on Iranian opponents in European countries.

Assadi, who was the third counselor at the Iranian embassy in Vienna, now faces up to 20 years in prison.


Israel extradites woman wanted for sex crimes to Australia

Israel extradites woman wanted for sex crimes to Australia
Updated 13 min 33 sec ago

Israel extradites woman wanted for sex crimes to Australia

Israel extradites woman wanted for sex crimes to Australia
  • Malka Leifer had been fighting extradition from Israel since 2014
  • She faces 74 charges of child sex abuse that she allegedly committed while teaching in Melbourne

JERUSALEM: Israeli authorities on Monday extradited a woman wanted on 74 charges of child sex abuse in Australia, following a six-year legal battle that had strained relations between the two governments.
Malka Leifer, a former teacher accused of sexually abusing several former students at a Jewish school in Melbourne, had been fighting extradition from Israel since 2014. Leifer maintains her innocence and the protracted court case and repeated delays over her extradition drew criticism from Australian officials as well as the country’s Jewish leaders.
Israeli media photographed Leifer boarding a plane at Ben Gurion Airport early Monday, her ankles and wrists shackled. Her lawyer, Nick Kaufman, confirmed the extradition.
The Hebrew-language news site Ynet reported that she boarded a flight to Frankfurt, where she would transfer to another flight bound for Australia.
Her departure was timed so that she left the country before Israel’s shutdown of the airport at midnight due to the country’s coronavirus outbreak.
In December, the Supreme Court rejected a final appeal against her extradition, and Israel’s justice minister signed the order to send her to Australia.
Leifer faces 74 charges of child sex abuse that she allegedly committed while teaching in Melbourne.
As accusations against her began surfacing in 2008, Israeli-born Leifer left the school and returned to Israel, where she has lived since.
Critics, including Leifer’s alleged victims, had accused Israeli authorities of dragging out the case for far too long, while Leifer claimed she was mentally unfit to stand trial.
Last year, an Israeli psychiatric panel determined Leifer was lying about her mental condition, setting in motion the extradition.
Avi Nissenkorn, Israel’s former justice minister who had signed the extradition order, wrote on Twitter: “I promised that I would not hinder the extradition order, and that’s what I have done. Malka Leifer’s victims will finally earn an act of justice.”
Manny Waks, head of Voice against Child Sex Abuse, an organization representing Leifer’s victims, said in a statement that “this is an incredible day for justice!”
“We can now truly look forward to Leifer facing justice in Australia on the 74 charges she is facing,” he said.