Swedish Kurds demand removal from Interpol list

Swedish Kurds demand removal from Interpol list

A group of Swedish citizens accused by Iran of terrorism and other crimes demanded Wednesday that their names be removed from Interpol’s most-wanted list, and criticized the international police agency for honoring politically motivated requests.

By MALIN RISING
Associated Press Writer

Originally published Wednesday, December 30, 2009 at 10:07 AM

STOCKHOLM —
A group of Swedish citizens accused by Iran of terrorism and other crimes demanded Wednesday that their names be removed from Interpol’s most-wanted list, and criticized the international police agency for honoring politically motivated requests.

The 10 men on the list are Kurds who were recognized by Sweden as political refugees some 20 years ago.

They are active critics of the Iranian regime, and their names were put on the Interpol wanted list at Iran’s request. Six are accused by Iran of terrorism, and four of organized crime.

One of the accused Swedes, Rasoul Banavand, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he and the nine others were shocked two weeks ago to discover their names and photographs on Interpol’s Web site.

“I have been active against the regime for 30 years,” he said. “It is nothing new that the Iranian regime judges me and calls me and the other opponents terrorists. But what is unexpected is that this comes from Interpol, an international organization.”

Arezo Julie Jacobsson, a spokeswoman for the men, said they are studying the possibility of taking legal action against Interpol for violating international asylum policies.

In an e-mail statement to The Associated Press, Interpol said it would be “inappropriate” to comment on the details of individual cases, but pointed out it is not its role to assess the evidence of cases.

“The individuals concerned are wanted by national jurisdictions (or International Criminal Tribunals, where appropriate) and Interpol’s role is to assist national police forces in identifying or locating those individuals with a view to their arrest and extradition,” it said.

Interpol also said that although an open letter has been published about the Iranian postings, the international agency has not directly received any information regarding the complaints.

Generally, countries send requests for most-wanted postings, called red notices, to the Interpol General Secretariat, where they are reviewed before publication.

Red notices are not the same as international arrest warrants. They are, however, formal notifications to other countries that a person is wanted at home.

Swedish law enforcement officials have not yet acted on the Interpol notice regarding the 10 men.

Swedish prosecutor Tomas Lindstrand said Sweden cannot extradite the men since they are Swedish citizens, but could theoretically charge them in Sweden if Iran presented sufficient evidence.

Lindstrand said the men risked extradition to Iran if they traveled abroad.

Banavand and the other Swedes are affiliates of the Worker-Communist Party of Iran Hekmatist – an Iranian political party in exile opposed to the country’s current Islamic regime. Two other members of the organization – one who lives in Britain, and one in Germany – also have been included on the Interpol list.

Banavand, who came to Sweden 17 years ago and now lives in Stockholm, said he was politically active in a Kurdish region in northern Iran after the 1979 revolution when regional heads clashed with Ayatollah Khomeini’s regime. He denied any links to terror-listed organizations.

He said the Interpol listing has been a horrible experience for him and his family.

“I’m afraid of traveling outside the Swedish borders,” he said. “Even though I know that a journey to England or Denmark maybe won’t be that dangerous, I still don’t feel safe.”

Interpol has previously been accused of being used for political ends and getting involved in touchy diplomacy issues. In 2007, Iran said the agency was becoming a tool of Israel and the United States after it placed five Iranians and a Lebanese terror suspect on its most-wanted list for a 1994 bombing in Argentina.

The agency said that although it is a rare occurrence, member countries or individuals subject to red notices may challenge their validity if they believe the notices contravene Interpol’s rules.

It said article 3 of its constitution says the organization is strictly forbidden to “undertake any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character.”

On the Net

Interpol: http://bit.ly/6QJ3WV

Associated Press Writer Angela Charlton in Paris also contributed to this report.

Original link, from Seattle Times: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2010638225_apeuswedeniraninterpol.html

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