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Montevideo, July 18th 2024 - 00:51 UTC



Emtrasur: Judge asks US for information on aircraft and crew link to terrorism

Saturday, June 25th 2022 - 10:20 UTC
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Argentine investigators ruled out this was a “fishing expedition” and explained terrorism cases follow a different protocol since 9/11. Argentine investigators ruled out this was a “fishing expedition” and explained terrorism cases follow a different protocol since 9/11.

Argentine Federal Judge Federico Villena has sent rogatory letters to United States authorities to determine whether the Emtrasur Boeing 747-300 held at the Ezeiza airport was subject to any formal embargo or restriction, it was reported Friday in Buenos Aires.

Local investigators also wished to establish whether the freighter's Capitain, the Iranian Gholamreza Ghasemi, or any other member of the crew were under investigation for possible links to international terrorism.

Villena also asked if any measure restricting Ghasemi's “freedom of movement” had been issued and whether or not the aircraft was “subject to a formal embargo or restriction.”

The diplomatic request was filed following Prosecutor Cecilia Incardona's opinion citing “the possible relationship of Gholamreza Ghasemi with international terrorist activities” and to prove ownership of the aircraft formerly operated by the Iranian Mahan Air and currently at the service of Emtrasur, a subsidiary of Consorcio Venezolano de Industrias Aeronáuticas y Servicios Aéreos (Conviasa), all companies that are sanctioned by the US Treasury Department.

Judge Villena has kept the passports of the entire crew of five Iranians and fourteen Venezuelans and seized the aircraft pending inquiries, while Prosecutor Incardona noted that the FBI reported that the pilot of the plane was the executive director and member of the board of directors of Qeshm Fars Air, a company that assists the Quds Force - a division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran - and Mahan Air, both of which have been described as “terrorist entities.”

The Argentine prosecutor insists what the judiciary inquest needs to determine is whether the actual purpose of the trip was to deliver autoparts or if it involved an “act of preparation to provide goods or money” that could be used for terrorist activity.

The arrival of this aircraft caused a media uproar and questioning from the opposition in Argentina, a country that suffered two terrorist attacks in the 1990s: against the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) and Israel's Embassy in Buenos Aires, both of which Israeli intelligence links to Iran and Hezbollah.

Incardona has charged Ghasemi with suspicion of terrorism. The Iranian and Venezuelan crew members of the 747 will continue to be banned from leaving the country while staying at a hotel in the Canning district within Ezeiza jurisdiction. While no restrictions of movement have been issued, a discreet guard of security forces monitors the place, according to local media reports.

Although the case is still under a seal of secrecy, the contents of Ghasemi's cell phone have been leaked to the press: it featured pictures of Ghasemi as a member of the Al Quds Revolutionary Guard and images with alleged anti-Israeli captions.

Despite the meager findings, investigators ruled out this was a “fishing expedition” and explained that since the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, terrorism investigations are subject to a different protocol which would endorse everything done so far.

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