Iran begins trial of Swedish EU employee detained in 2022

Iran begins trial of Swedish EU employee detained in 2022
Johan Floderus is seen in this family handout of a videograb taken during a video call from Evin prison in Tehran, Aug. 7, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 10 December 2023
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Iran begins trial of Swedish EU employee detained in 2022

Iran begins trial of Swedish EU employee detained in 2022
  • The Swedish charge d’affaires was at the court but was refused the right to participate in the trial

STOCKHOLM: An Iranian court has begun the trial of a Swedish national employed by the European Union who was detained last year, Sweden’s foreign minister said on Saturday.
“I have been informed that the trial of Johan Floderus has begun in Tehran,” Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom told Swedish news agency TT.
“The Swedish charge d’affaires was at the court but was refused the right to participate in the trial. Sweden has ... requested the right to be present when the trial resumes.”
Floderus was detained in April 2022 while on holiday in Iran for what his family said was alleged spying. Billstrom did not specify what Floderus had been charged with.
Floderus’ family has said he was detained “without any justifiable cause or due process.”
Rights groups and Western governments have accused the Islamic Republic of trying to extract political concessions from other countries through arrests on security charges that may have been trumped up. Tehran says such arrests are based on its criminal code and denies holding people for political reasons.
Relations between Sweden and Iran have been tense since 2019 when Sweden arrested a former Iranian official for his part in the mass execution and torture of political prisoners in the 1980s. Hamid Noury was sentenced to life in prison last year, prompting Iran to recall its envoy to Sweden in protest.
In May, Iran executed a Swedish-Iranian dissident convicted of leading an Arab separatist group Tehran blames for a number of attacks including one on a military parade in 2018 that killed 25 people.


US ‘will not send troops to fight in Ukraine:’ White House

Updated 14 sec ago
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US ‘will not send troops to fight in Ukraine:’ White House

US ‘will not send troops to fight in Ukraine:’ White House
WASHINGTON: The White House said Tuesday that the United States would not send troops to fight in Ukraine, after French President Emmanuel Macron refused to rule out the dispatch of Western forces.
“President Biden has been clear that the US will not send troops to fight in Ukraine,” National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement.
Biden believes the “path to victory” is for Congress to pass blocked military aid “so Ukrainian troops have the weapons and ammunition they need to defend themselves” against Russian invasion, Watson added.

Four charged with transporting Iranian-made weapons face detention hearings in US court

Four charged with transporting Iranian-made weapons face detention hearings in US court
Updated 44 min 25 sec ago
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Four charged with transporting Iranian-made weapons face detention hearings in US court

Four charged with transporting Iranian-made weapons face detention hearings in US court
  • The man who captained the unflagged vessel, Muhammad Pahlawan, refused to slow the ship when the US Navy began its boarding attempt
  • “Rather than turn the engine off, however, Pahlawan told crewmembers not to stop the dhow while the Navy was approaching,” court documents stated

VIRGINIA, USA: Four crew members from an unflagged ship that US officials say was carrying Iranian-made missile components to Houthis in Yemen are scheduled to appear Tuesday in federal court in Virginia, where prosecutors are expected to argue they should be held without bond while they await trial.
US Navy SEALs and the US Coast Guard boarded the vessel in January in the Arabian Sea in the wake of continued Houthi attacks on commercial and military ships in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.
Two Navy SEALs drowned during the Jan. 11 operation. US officials said Navy Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Christopher J. Chambers slipped into the gap created by high waves between the vessel and the SEALs’ combatant craft.
As Chambers fell, Navy Special Warfare Operator 2nd Class Nathan Gage Ingram jumped in to try to save him, according to US officials familiar with what happened. The SEAL who jumped in after the other operator in a rescue attempt was following protocol, according to court documents.
Efforts to find and rescue the two SEALs were unsuccessful. They were later declared dead by the US Navy.
The man who captained the unflagged vessel, Muhammad Pahlawan, refused to slow the ship when the US Navy began its boarding attempt and “shouted for the crew to burn the boat before the Navy could board it,” according to court documents filed in the federal court in Richmond.
The ship was described in court documents as a dhow.
“Rather than turn the engine off, however, Pahlawan told crewmembers not to stop the dhow while the Navy was approaching,” court documents stated. “In fact, Pahlawan tried to make the dhow go faster. Finally, another crewmember, not Pahlawan, stepped up to the engine and stopped the boat.”
During a search of the ship, US forces found and seized Iranian-made advanced conventional weaponry, including critical parts for medium-range ballistic missiles and anti-ship cruise missiles, a warhead, and propulsion and guidance components, an FBI agent wrote in an affidavit. The agent said the items found are consistent with weaponry used by Houthi forces in recent attacks on merchant ships and US military ships.
The affidavit quoted US Central Command, which stated that it was the first seizure of “Iranian-supplied advanced conventional weapons” to the Houthis since their strikes began in November.
“Initial analysis indicates these same weapons have been employed by the Houthis to threaten and attack innocent mariners,” the FBI agent wrote, quoting Central Command.
The Houthis have repeatedly targeted ships in the Red Sea and surrounding waters over Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. They have frequently targeted vessels with tenuous or no clear links to Israel, imperilling shipping in a key route for trade among Asia, the Mideast and Europe.
The four crew members scheduled to appear Tuesday in US District Court were all carrying Pakistani identification cards, according to court documents.
Pahlawan, the alleged captain, is charged with attempting to smuggle advanced missile components, including a warhead he is accused of knowing would be used by the Houthis against commercial and naval vessels. He is also charged with providing false information to US Coast Guard officers during the boarding of the vessel.
Pahlawan’s codefendants — Mohammad Mazhar, Ghufran Ullah and Izhar Muhammad — were also charged with providing false information.
Specifically, the men lied about Pahlawan’s identity as captain, the weapons on board and the ship’s departure from Iran, court documents stated. The men had claimed their voyage’s origin was Pakistan.
Their attorneys have declined to comment.
Another 10 crew members are being detained under the federal material witness law. It allows courts to issue warrants for the arrest and detention of a person if their testimony is “material in a criminal proceeding,” and if it “may become impracticable to secure the presence of the person by subpoena.”
The FBI affidavit states that crew members had been in contact multiple times by satellite phone with a member of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard.


‘Urgent’ for G7 to seize Russian profits for Ukraine: Yellen

‘Urgent’ for G7 to seize Russian profits for Ukraine: Yellen
Updated 27 February 2024
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‘Urgent’ for G7 to seize Russian profits for Ukraine: Yellen

‘Urgent’ for G7 to seize Russian profits for Ukraine: Yellen
  • Calls have been mounting in the United States and Europe to set up a fund for Ukraine
  • Yellen told journalists in Sao Paulo: “There is a strong international-law, economic and moral case for moving forward”

SAO PAULO, Brazil: US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Tuesday it was urgent for G7 nations to jointly seize profits from frozen Russian assets and redirect them to Ukraine, as the group prepared to meet on the issue.
Calls have been mounting in the United States and Europe to set up a fund for Ukraine using billions of dollars in bank accounts, investments and other assets frozen by the West over Russia’s 2022 invasion.
“It is necessary and urgent for our coalition to find a way to unlock the value of these immobilized assets to support Ukraine’s continued resistance and long-term reconstruction,” Yellen told journalists in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where she will attend a meeting of G20 finance ministers Wednesday and Thursday.
“There is a strong international-law, economic and moral case for moving forward. This would be a decisive response to Russia’s unprecedented threat to global stability. It would make clear that Russia cannot win by prolonging the war and would incentivize it to come to the table to negotiate a just peace with Ukraine.”
Yellen urged joint action by the Group of Seven — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and the United States, plus the European Union — after evaluating the risks, which include triggering financial instability.
“The G7 should work together to explore a number of approaches: seizing the assets themselves, using them as collateral to borrow from global markets,” she said.
G7 officials say the group is due to meet on the sidelines of the Sao Paulo gathering to discuss support for Ukraine, as its grueling fight against Russia enters its third year.
Ukraine has warned it desperately needs more military and financial assistance, as a fresh $60 billion US package remains stalled in Congress.
That has cast a spotlight on the estimated $397 billion in Russian assets frozen by the West, ranging from central bank assets to yachts, real estate and other property from oligarchs close to President Vladimir Putin.
But there are risks involved, including likely Russian legal action and the potential for scaring other countries, such as China, into reducing their own investments in the West, fearing similar action.
Yellen said a risk to financial stability would arise “if there were a massive shift away from currencies” of Western countries in response to seizing Russian funds. But she said the risk was minimal if the G7 acted together.
“I think (financial instability) is extremely unlikely, especially given the uniqueness of this situation, where Russia is brazenly violating international norms and a group of countries representing half the global economy... have the capacity to work together,” she said.
“Realistically, there are not alternatives” to the dollar, euro and other G7 currencies on international markets, she said.
“There are risks,” she acknowledged. “We’re working to evaluate and outline options for consideration.”
The US Congress is currently weighing a bill that would authorize the confiscation and disposition of Russian sovereign assets.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called Sunday for “bolder” action on the issue, writing in an opinion piece in the Sunday Times that the West should start by taking interest from Russian assets before finding “lawful ways to seize the assets themselves.”
And Greece’s special envoy on Ukraine, Spiros Lampridis, told AFP Monday the EU is close to seizing Russian profits, saying it was “a question of months.”
However, he added that the estimated 50 billion to 60 billion euros the move would yield was a “trifle” compared with the roughly 500 billion euros or more needed for Ukraine’s reconstruction.


UK sanctions Iran’s IRGC units for enabling work of Houthis

UK sanctions Iran’s IRGC units for enabling work of Houthis
Updated 27 February 2024
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UK sanctions Iran’s IRGC units for enabling work of Houthis

UK sanctions Iran’s IRGC units for enabling work of Houthis
  • The sanctions were imposed in coordination with the United States
  • “The attacks by the Iran-backed Houthis are unacceptable, illegal and a threat to innocent lives,” British foreign minister David Cameron said

LONDON: Britain on Tuesday imposed sanctions on units of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), targeting those who it said were enabling the work of the Houthis, the Iran-linked group responsible for attacks on shipping in the Red Sea.
The sanctions were imposed in coordination with the United States.
Britain’s sanctions target Mohammad Reza Fallahzadeh, a deputy commander of the IRGC, three units of the IRGC Quds Force, Iran-based financier Sa’id Al-Jamal and a Houthi security minister, the UK foreign ministry said.
“The attacks by the Iran-backed Houthis are unacceptable, illegal and a threat to innocent lives and freedom of navigation,” British foreign minister David Cameron said in a statement.
“As I have made clear to the Iranian Foreign Minister, the regime bears responsibility for these attacks due to the extensive military support it has provided to the Houthis.”
Shipping risks have escalated due to repeated Houthi drone and missile strikes in the Red Sea region since November in support of Palestinians in Gaza.
US and British forces have responded with several strikes on Houthi facilities.


France teacher faces ‘terror’ charges over religious chants

France teacher faces ‘terror’ charges over religious chants
Updated 27 February 2024
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France teacher faces ‘terror’ charges over religious chants

France teacher faces ‘terror’ charges over religious chants
  • The man was indicted on February 16 over alleged “terrorist criminal conspiracy with a view to committing crimes against people”
  • The songs were found on his “personal digital equipment”

PARIS: French prosecutors have charged a 26-year-old schoolteacher on suspicion he translated religious chants into French for the Daesh group, the national anti-terror prosecutor’s office said this week.
The man was indicted on February 16 over alleged “terrorist criminal conspiracy with a view to committing crimes against people,” the prosecutor’s office said on Monday.
“He is charged with translating into French, singing and editing at least five religious chants promoting jihad and of sending them to members of Daesh to be broadcast,” it said.
The songs were found on his “personal digital equipment,” it said. He is being held in detention.
A source close to the case, who asked to remain anonymous, said the teacher’s home was searched in December, leading to an investigation being launched.
Le Parisien newspaper said the man, a Franco-Algerian, was a primary school teacher in the Parisian suburb of Drancy.
It said he was “suspected of privately disseminating militant propaganda” online.
Hundreds of French men and women joined the ranks of Daesh after it seized large swathes of Syria and Iraq in 2014, before its territorial defeat in 2019.
Daesh followers have claimed responsibility for devastating attacks in France over the last decade.
They include the worst militant attack in French history, which took place in November 2015 in and around Paris and left 130 people dead.