The Dutch government has accused Iran of hiring criminal gangs to murder two Iranian dissidents in the Netherlands, as the EU imposed sanctions on Tehran for a widespread campaign of assassination plots across Europe.
The EU brought sanctions against Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and two Iranian officials in response to known plots last year to kill an Iranian opposition leader in Denmark and to bomb a major opposition conference in France.
As part of the coordinated EU action, the Netherlands also revealed for the first time that it believed Iran was behind the assassinations of two Dutch citizens of Iranian origin who were both gunned down by criminal hitmen who fled in stolen BMWs.
Ahmad Mola Nissi, 52, was murdered in the Hague in November 2017 by a man who emerged from a BMW and shot him to death at his front door.
Mr Nissi was was a leader in the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz, a separatist group which hopes to form a breakaway Arab state in western Iran. The group is considered a terrorist organisation by Tehran.
Ali Motamed, a 56-year-old electrician, was killed in an almost identical shooting outside his home near Amsterdam in December 2015. Mr Motamed is believed to have adopted a pseudonym to hide his real identity, which was Mohammad Reza Kolahi.
Kolahi was allegedly responsible for carrying out a major bombing in Tehran in 1981 which killed dozen of Iranian regime officials, including Ayatollah Khomeini’s deputy. Kolahi had for decades been one of the Islamic Republic’s most wanted men.
The families of both men had long suspected that Iran was responsible for the murders but the Dutch government refused to say if it had any evidence. The Netherlands expelled two Iranian diplomats last year but would not disclose whether the expulsions were linked to the killings.
“This has been a chapter in our lives we cannot close,” said Hawra Nissi, Mr Nissi’s daughter. She was one of the first to the scene when her father was killed steps from their door.
“We have always been 99 per cent sure it was the Iranian regime but the Dutch government never revealed any information,” she told The Telegraph.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Dutch foreign ministry finally said it had “strong indications that Iran was involved in the assassinations” and that it kept the evidence secret “in the interests of facilitating this common EU action” against Iran.
“Hostile acts of this kind flagrantly violate the sovereignty of the Netherlands and are unacceptable,” the ministry said.
Iran is suspected of hiring local Dutch gangsters to carry out both killings as a way of hiding the state’s involvement in the crime. Hizbollah, the Lebanese militant group, is involved in the global drugs trade and analysts say they may have been able to facilitate connections with Dutch criminals.
Click Here: racing club camiseta
"Tehran has used diplomatic missions, disaffected persons, terrorist groups, and even criminal networks to engage in terror and assassinations abroad so as to retain a degree of plausible deniability for its actions," said Behnam Ben Taleblu, a research fellow at Foundation for the Defence of Democracies.
In the case of Mr Motamed, two gang members from Amsterdam are already on trial for his murder. They have pleaded not guilty and the case is continuing.
Prosecutors say they believe the young men were contracted to carry out the killing by Naoufal "the Stomach" Fassih, a notorious Amsterdam gangster of Moroccan origin who is already in prison for other charges. It remains unclear who ordered Fassih to contract the killing.
The Dutch government said that while it had intelligence evidence of Iran’s involvement, it did not have evidence of Iran’s involvement that could be used in court.
“The ongoing criminal investigations have not confirmed, in a criminal law sense, the intelligence that suggests interference by Iran,” the foreign ministry said.
No one has been arrested for the murder of Mr Nissi but Dutch police said they believed a criminal gang in Rotterdam had been hired for the killing. Rotterdam city officials told The Telegraph last year that investigators were focusing on a Turkish gang involved in drug smuggling in the city.
Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, did not directly address the allegations but accused the Netherlands, France, and Denmark of harbouring terrorists. "Accusing Iran won’t absolve Europe of responsibility for harboring terrorists," he said.
Europeans, incl Denmark, Holland & France, harbor MEK—who killed 12000 Iranians & abetted Saddam's crimes against Iraqi Kurds—as well as other terrorists staging murder of innocent Iranians from Europe. Accusing Iran won't absolve Europe of responsibility for harboring terrorists pic.twitter.com/pUXmSjmgyB
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) January 8, 2019
Iran has a history of hiring criminal groups to carry out assassinations. In 2011, the US alleged that Iran had hired a Mexican drug cartel to murder the Saudi ambassador in Washington.
Anders Samuelsen, the Danish foreign minister, hailed Tuesday’s EU sanctions against Iran as an “important day for European foreign policy”.
“EU just agreed to enact sanctions against an Iranian Intelligence Service for its assassination plots on European soil. Strong signal from the EU that we will not accept such behaviour in Europe,” he said.
Important day for European Foreign Policy! EU just agreed to enact sanctions against an Iranian Intelligence Service for its assassination plots on European soil. Strong signal from the EU that we will not accept such behavior in Europe.
— Anders Samuelsen (@anderssamuelsen) January 8, 2019
The EU sanctions were imposed on a unit within the Ministry of Intelligence as well as Saeid Hashemi Moghadam, the deputy intelligence minister, and Assadollah Asadi, an Iranian spy already in prison for alleged involvement in the France bomb plot.
Even as the EU imposed the new sanctions, officials said they maintained support for the Iran nuclear agreement and would continue trading with Iran despite pressure from the Trump administration.
Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, said Tuesday that the US was redoubling its efforts "to put real pressure on Iran" diplomatically and commercially.
The Danish government, with the help of Israeli intelligence, foiled an alleged plot last year to assassinate another Arab separatist leader in Copenhagen. A Norwegian citizen of Iranian descent was arrested as part of the operation.
Coordinated action by European intelligence agencies also broke up a plot to bomb a conference in Paris put on by the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), a controversial Iranian exile group.
The conference guests included Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump’s lawyer. Other senior US officials, including John Bolton, Mr Trump’s national security advisor, have attended the conference in the past.
Albania expelled the Iranian ambassador and another diplomat last year for allegedly plotting attacks against MEK.
The MEK said the EU sanctions were a "positive but insufficient step in the face of the regime’s state terrorism".