Kurd murder claim against Iran leader
The Guardian UK:
Iran yesterday claimed that its hardline president-elect, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was the victim of a smear campaign after fresh accusations that he was involved in the assassination of an exiled Kurdish politician. READ MORE
At the weekend an Austrian MP, Peter Pilz, said he had "very convincing" evidence that Mr Ahmadinejad - a former revolutionary guard - was involved in the murder in 1989 of a leading Iranian opposition politician in Vienna.
Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou was shot dead with two other Kurdish activists. Ghassemlou was the general secretary of the Party for a Democratic Kurdistan, which Tehran had banned.
According to Mr Pilz, Mr Ahmadinejad travelled to Vienna a week before the murders and delivered the weapons used to the Iranian embassy. The assassins were never caught.
"The man stands under urgent suspicion of having been involved in the murder of Ghassemlou," Mr Pilz, a Green party MP, told Austria's Der Standard newspaper on Saturday.
Yesterday, however, the Iranian president-elect's aides angrily dismissed the latest allegations.
"The charges are so self-evidently false they are not worthy of response," a foreign ministry spokesman, Hamid Reza Asefi, said. He added: "We advise the Europeans not to fall into the trap of the Zionist media and to separate their interests from America and the Zionist entity."
The claim follows earlier allegations that Mr Ahmadinejad was involved in storming the US embassy in Tehran and holding 52 hostages for 444 days in the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic revolution. Six former hostages have said they believe Mr Ahmadinejad was among their captors. He has denied any involvement, and his claim is supported by the original hostage takers.
The Bush administration says it is still examining the claim. At the weekend, however, Mr Pilz said he had handed over documents concerning the murders to Austria's interior ministry. State prosecutors in Austria confirmed that they are now investigating.
The documents were "very credible", Mr Pilz said, adding that those responsible for the murders had taken refuge in the Iranian embassy. They were allowed to slip out of Austria after pressure from Tehran, the MP added.
Tehran denies the charge. "The enemy has created these allegations to mask the high turnout in elections," Mr Asefi said.
Mr Ahmadinejad, an ultra-conservative and former member of the Office of Strengthening Unity, the student organisation that planned the embassy takeover, was elected by a landslide majority last month, winning some 62% of votes cast on a turnout of 60%.
His candidacy appealed to the poor who viewed him as the candidate who would distribute Iran's abundant oil wealth more directly to them.
On Saturday Saeed Hajjarian, a top former secret agent and now a senior adviser to outgoing reformist President Mohammed Khatami, denied the allegations being levelled against Mr Ahmadinejad.
Several of Mr Ahmadinejad's associates have said he was opposed to taking over the US embassy.
Although Mr Hajjarian said Mr Ahmadinejad had not been involved in the hostage taking, he has been at loggerheads with the hardline president-elect.
Mr Hajjarian has alleged that Mr Ahmadinejad was involved in financial wrongdoing while previously serving as governor of Ardabil province in north-western Iran.
The former secret agent's comments are likely to draw an angry reaction from Mr Ahmadinejad.
No official charges have yet been brought against the president-elect, who governed the province before becoming the mayor of Tehran two years ago.
Muhammad Reza Bahonar, a senior hardliner close to Mr Ahmadinejad, acknowledged this week that the intelligence minister, Ali Yunesi, had opposed Mr Ahmadinejad's appointment as Tehran mayor because there was a "dossier" against him.
He did not explain the nature of the case.