Iran Accuses Israel of Kidnapping Former Deputy Defense Minister

Deputy foreign minister calls for international investigation, claiming Israel snatched Ali Reza Asghari, who disappeared in Istanbul in 2006.

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Yossi Melman
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Yossi Melman

Iran is accusing Israel of kidnapping its former deputy defense minister Ali Reza Asghari. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister in the Middle East and Commonwealth Affairs Mohammed Raouf Sheybani said that he was worried by reports that Asghari was taken by force to a "prison of the Zionist regime."

According to Sheybani, Asghari was kidnapped by Israeli forces, with the help of the United States. Sheybani called upon the international community to take emergency action in order to discover Asghari's current whereabouts.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gestures prior to delivering his speech in the city of Qazvin about 140 kilometers west of Tehran, Nov. 10, 2010Credit: AP

Asghari, who served as commander of the Al-Quds unit of the Revolutionary Guards and was later appointed Deputy Defense Minister, disappeared on December 9, 2006 during a visit to Turkey. After passing through Syria, he arrived at his hotel in Istanbul, when he went missing without a trace.

Since his disappearance, the media have speculated as to his whereabouts. Some have speculated that he has defected to a Western country, either the U.S., the U.K., Germany or Israel.

According to these theories, Asghari divulged to the CIA, Mossad, the British MI-6 and German intelligence a great deal of information that was in his possession due to the high-ranking positions that he occupied in the Iranian security apparatus.

Asghari's wife and relatives and the Iranian government contend that he would not have defected of his own free will, but that he instead was kidnapped, and are demanding that the Turkish authorities investigate the incident.

The Iranian deputy foreign minister mentioned the disappearance of four Iranian diplomats in Lebanon in 1982 in his remarks. Iran holds Israel responsible for the disappearance of the four. During negotiations held to try to secure the release of captured Israeli airman Ron Arad, Hezbollah officials raised the Iranian demand for information on the fate of the four diplomats.

Through German mediators, Israel relayed its contention that the four were arrested at a roadblock set up by the Lebanese Christian Phalanghist militias at the height of the first Lebanon War. Israeli officials claimed then that after their arrest, the four were transferred to another location for interrogation, at the conclusion of which they either died as a result of torture or were summarily executed.

According to information from the same sources that related that version of events, the four Iranian diplomats were buried in an open field in Beirut, upon which a commercial center was later built.

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