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ARGENTINA | 15-06-2022 16:09

Government denies detained Iranian flight crew are linked to Al Quds

Argentina's government on Wednesday rejected reports that one of the 19 crew members of the Venezuelan cargo plane detained at Ezeiza International Airport belonged to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's Al Quds forces.

Argentina's government on Wednesday rejected reports that one of the 19 crew members of the Venezuelan cargo plane detained at Ezeiza International Airport belonged to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's Al Quds forces, saying the individual's name was only his a match.

"He has the status of homonym, not anything else," Security Minister Aníbal Fernández told the press as he reported on verification carried out by the Federal Police. 

Fernández was referring to Gholamreza Ghasemi, one of the five Iranians held along with 14 other Venezuelan crew members of the cargo plane that arrived in Argentina on June 6 carrying automobile parts and is currently under judicial investigation.

Al Quds, an elite force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, is classified as a terrorist organisation by the United States. Although Argentina does not include the organisation on its list, at least one of its members is listed individually. 

The detained plane belongs to Emtrasur, a subsidiary of Venezuela's Conviasa, which is under US Treasury sanctions. It was bought a year ago from the Iranian airline Mahan Air.

"From our check, carried out by the Federal Police, there is no data that changes what has happened up to this point," Fernández said.

The minister stressed that none of the crew members were barred from entering Argentina, but said that "later we received some information from international agencies about the plane, not the people."

The 19 crew members are banned from leaving the country, due to an investigation launched on Sunday by Federal Judge Federico Villena. The case is being kept sealed.

On Tuesday, the judge ordered a search of the hotel rooms where the 19 crew members are staying. During the raid, mobile phones and documents were seized and the ban on the 14 Venezuelans leaving the country, which had already been imposed on the five Iranians, was extended to the 14 Venezuelans.

"The judge decided to raid, because of the phones, and finally extended the measure he had taken against the five Iranians to the 14 Venezuelans, all of whose passports were withheld," the minister said.

He also said he had made contact with Federico González, the interior minister of Paraguay, where the plane had been in May.

Argentina considers the presence of Iranian travellers to be sensitive, given the red arrest alerts issued by Interpol for former Iranian leaders accused of the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish centre that left 85 dead and 300 wounded.

The Delegation of Argentine Israelite Associations (DAIA) is a party to the lawsuit in the judicial investigation into the plane case.

 

– TIMES/AFP

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