Iranian minister visiting SA was listed on Interpol

2011-03-11 07:07

An Iranian deputy foreign minister who has been visiting South Africa was listed on Interpol as being wanted in connection with a 1994 bombing that killed 85 people.

Dr Hadi Soleimanpour, who is currently in South Africa is still wanted in Argentina, said Sergio Widder, Argentinian representative of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, a Jewish human rights organisation.

Soleimanpour, 55, whose name was also spelt Solaimanpour, was Iran’s ambassador to Argentina in 1994 when a bomb ripped through a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires on July 18 1994.

A total of 85 people were killed and more than 300 injured.

Nobody has ever been arrested in connection with the blast that flattened the seven story building, but Soleimanpour was among those wanted for questioning by Argentinian authorities.

A list of questions submitted to Argentinian embassy officials in Pretoria went unanswered.

Argentine Judge Juan José Galeano issued warrants for Soleimanpour’s arrest and on August 21 2003 he was seized by British authorities as Argentina attempted to have him extradited.

The Telegraph newspaper reported at the time that he had been studying ecotourism at the University of Durham when he was seized.

The extradition request was rejected by British authorities in November 2003 because there was insufficient evidence to proceed with extradition, according to the BBC News.

The BBC reported at the time that the case strained ties between Britain and Iran, which said it was politically motivated.

In October 2006, Argentine prosecutors Alberto Nisman and Marcelo Martínez Burgos formally accused the government of Iran of directing the bombing, and the Hezbollah militia of carrying it out.

The BBC reported at the time that they called for the arrest of the arrest of former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani and seven others.

Their names were sent to Interpol and Interpol red notices were issued.

Interpol red notices allow the warrant to be circulated worldwide with the request that the wanted person be arrested with a view to extradition.

However, Iran contested the red notices.

On March 15 2007, Interpol issued a statement saying the red notices for Rafsanjani, former Iranian Foreign Affairs minister Ali Akbar Velayati and Soleimanpour had been withdrawn.

Red notices for six others remained in place.

“The executive committee carefully considered all the information put before it, and in light of Interpol’s rules believes that the conclusions of the Office of Legal Affairs that these six Red Notices should be issued is correct,” said South Africa’s then police chief Jackie Selebi.

He was at the time president of Interpol.

Widder said yesterday he had spoken to Nisman, who confirmed that Argentina still had an international arrest warrant out for Soleimanpour.

Widder said he believed Argentina had so far been unable to arrest Rafsanjani and others because of diplomatic immunity.

“We expect a government that is committed to human rights not to receive these people,” said Widder.

Soleimanpour was due to hold a joint press conference with South Africa’s Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ebrahim Ebrahim, yesterday afternoon, but this was cancelled at short notice.

A Department of International Relations and Cooperation official said that the press conference had been cancelled because Soleimanpour “didn’t feel comfortable with the media because his English is bad”.

Department of International Relations and Cooperation spokesman Clayson Monyela said he was not personally aware that Argentina had a warrant out for Soleimanpour’s arrest.

Soleimanpour was due to leave South Africa today.

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