Germany expels two Iran diplomats over dual national's death penalty

AFP , Wednesday 22 Feb 2023

Germany said Wednesday that it was expelling two diplomats from the Iranian embassy in Berlin in response to the death sentence an Iranian court handed down against an Iranian-German national.

Jamshid Sharmahd (L front)
Jamshid Sharmahd (L front), who is accused by the Iranian government of being a leader of the US-based Tondar terrorist group behind a deadly attack in Iran in 2008, attends the first hearing of his trial in Tehran. AFP


After the death penalty verdict Tuesday against Jamshid Sharmahd, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said in a statement that Berlin was "declaring two Iranian embassy staff members to be persona non grata" and "ordering them to leave Germany".

A ministry spokesman said later the Iranians would have "a few days" to quit the country.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz condemned "in the strongest terms" the verdict against Sharmahd, who supporters say was abducted abroad and forcibly returned to Iran for a show trial.

"The Iranian regime is fighting its own people in every way possible and shows no respect for human rights," he tweeted, calling on Tehran to reverse the "unacceptable" death penalty ruling.

Baerbock summoned Iran's charge d'affaires over the case and called for Sharmahd to be given "a fair appeal based on the rule of law".

The German foreign minister has been at the forefront of Western voices condemning Tehran's bloody crackdown on demonstrations and its executions of anti-government protesters.

The Tehran Revolutionary Court convicted Sharmahd, 67, in connection with the deadly bombing of a mosque in 2008, the judiciary's Mizan Online website reported.

Iranian authorities announced in August 2020 that Sharmahd, who is also a US resident, was arrested in what they described as a "complex operation" without specifying how, where or when he was seized.

His family says he was kidnapped by the Iranian security services while in transit in Dubai and then brought to Iran.

'Needs heroic measures'

His daughter Gazelle Sharmahd insisted Wednesday on his innocence and called on EU countries to ratchet up the pressure to save him.

European governments "should use all the means in their political arsenal -- each and every one of them," she told AFP. "It needs heroic measures right now. It needs extreme measures."

Baerbock had condemned the ruling on Tuesday as "absolutely unacceptable" and promised a "strong reaction" to the decision, resulting in Wednesday's expulsion order.

"Not only is the death penalty cruel, inhuman and degrading, but Jamshid Sharmahd has never had anything approaching a fair trial," she said.

Sharmahd is accused by Iran of leading the Tondar group that aims to topple the Islamic republic and is outlawed as a terrorist organisation by the government.

Mizan said Sharmahd planned to commit 23 "terrorist" acts, of which he succeeded in five, including the bombing of a mosque in the southern city of Shiraz on April 12, 2008, which killed 14 people and wounded 300 others.

Prosecutors had also accused Sharmahd of having established contact with "FBI and CIA officers" and of having "attempted to contact Israeli Mossad agents".

In 2009, Iran convicted and hanged three men for the Shiraz bombing, claiming they had links to the monarchist group and had taken their orders from "an Iranian CIA agent" based in the United States in an attempt to assassinate a senior official in Iran.

'Fading away'

Sharmahd's family have ridiculed the charges against him and raised concerns about his conditions in detention.

Gazelle Sharmahd said her father had lost all his teeth in jail and no longer had the right to speak to his loved ones.

"Dad has been fading away in prison," she said.

"We don't even know where he is, we don't know how he is doing or even if he knows this horrible news (of the verdict), and if every time his cell door opens he thinks he is going to be pulled out for the last time."

The head of the Norway-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) group, Mahmood Amiry Moghaddam, urged a resolute EU response to the death sentence, which he said Tehran was using as a political tool.

"Kidnapping and threatening to kill Jamshid Sharmahd based on an unlawful sentence is the Islamic Republic's attempt to blackmail the European Union with the aim of easing the political pressure," he said in a statement.

"Germany and the European community must react decisively to this terrorist act."

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