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Last Updated: Friday, 12 September, 2003, 11:17 GMT 12:17 UK
Iran ex-diplomat freed on bail
Mr Soleimanpour (right) arrives at Bow Street Magistrates Court
Hade Soleimanpour (right) denies involvement in the 1994 bombing
An Iranian ex-envoy has been freed on bail in London, pending extradition proceedings over a bombing which killed 85 in Argentina.

Hade Soleimanpour was freed on 730,000 bail, and must report daily to police.

A High Court judge said there was no clear evidence Mr Soleimanpour was involved in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish centre in Buenos Aires.

Mr Soleimanpour was arrested while studying in England. The case has caused tension between Iran and the UK.

Mr Justice Royce said he had read reports from the investigating judge in Argentina - totalling more than 400 pages - but said it did not point to any "clear evidence demonstrating his involvement".

He added that Mr Soleimanpour had stayed in the UK despite plenty of chances to flee.

'Innuendo and hearsay'

The envoy had known about a possible extradition request from Argentina since March and "clearly could have departed these shores by now had he so wished," he said.

The Iranian Government has put up 500,000 to guarantee bail and Mr Soleimanpour's parents in Iran have put up another 200,000. The diplomat has offered to supply the rest himself.

His counsel, Mr Alun Jones QC, said the Argentine government's accusations were based on "innuendo, hearsay and suspicion".
The aftermath of the 1994 bombing of a Jewish centre in Buenos Aires

Argentina seemed to be suggesting that Iran was exporting state-sponsored terrorism through its embassy and that the ambassador therefore must have been involved, he said.

He said Mr Soleimanpour planned to stay in Durham for at least another year and wanted to play a full part in the judicial process so that the suspicions against him could be dispelled.

Mr Justice Royce said it was "too early" to reach a final view on the strength of Argentina's case against the diplomat - and that would be decided by a magistrate as the extradition proceedings began.

Mr Soleimanpour is due to appear at London's Bow Street magistrates' court on Friday, 19 September, for the start of extradition proceedings.

'Planned' blast

The row over the arrest has caused a diplomatic strain between the UK and Iran.

Iran claims the arrest is politically motivated and temporarily recalled its ambassador to London back to Tehran in protest.

But the UK government says it cannot intervene in what it calls a purely judicial process.

Mr Soleimanpour, who was Iran's ambassador to Argentina in 1994, says he was not in the country at the time of the bombing.

But the Argentine authorities allege the 47-year-old was involved in planning and commissioning the bomb - the country's worst terrorist attack.

Ties suspended

Mr Soleimanpour is still employed by Iran's diplomatic service, but is on a sabbatical studying nature-based tourism at Durham, where he has been living with his wife of 18 years and their children, aged 13 and seven.

In total, Argentina is seeking the extradition of eight Iranian officials from various countries in connection with the bombing.

Iran has suspended economic and cultural ties with Argentina in protest against the arrest.




SEE ALSO:
More shots at UK Iran embassy
09 Sep 03  |  Middle East
Iranian ambassador returns to UK
07 Sep 03  |  Middle East
Flashback: Argentina bomb
25 Aug 03  |  Americas
Iran cuts ties with Argentina
23 Aug 03  |  Americas
Analysis: Iran's UK dilemma
03 Sep 03  |  Middle East
Timeline: UK-Iran relations
03 Sep 03  |  Middle East


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