Istanbul, Jul. 19 - The Turkish
authorities released one of the chief suspects in the 1994 bombing of a
Jewish community centre in Argentina that killed 87 people and injured
200 others and sent him back to Iran, a Turkish security official said
The decision was taken by the Turkish government after intense pressure from Iran, the source, who spoke on the
condition of anonymity, told Iran Focus.
Masoud Amiri was
identified as a terrorist suspect by undercover officers of Milli Istihbarat Teskilati (MIT), the country’s security agency, when he
arrived at Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport on July 6, according to the
Amiri is one of eight chief suspects sought by
Argentine investigators for their involvement in the bombing of Associacion Mutual Israelita Argentina, the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, on July 18,
1994. On August 13, 2003, an Argentine court issued arrest warrants for the eight suspects. The
request for the arrest of the suspects was transmitted to the Turkish
authorities by Interpol, the security official said.
Seven of the suspects, including Amiri, were
officials of the Iranian government, including former Intelligence (secret
service) Minister Ali Fallahian. A German court has
also issued an international arrest warrant for Fallahian
for his involvement in the assassination of four Iranian dissidents in Berlin in September 1992. The eighth
suspect, Imad Mughnia, is
considered the operational mastermind of the Lebanese Hezbollah. United States law enforcement officials believe
Mughnia is in Iran.
“Iran put a huge amount of pressure on our
government to release Amiri immediately”, the
Turkish security official said. “Our government didn’t want a full-blown
diplomatic crisis with Iran just ahead of the conference of
foreign ministers of Iraq’s neighbouring
states, which opened here today”.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry notified the security services that Amiri had diplomatic immunity and had to be released
immediately, the official said.
The decision to leak the news of the arrest and subsequent release of an Iranian
bombing suspect seems to reflect the Turkish security services’ displeasure
at Ankara’s soft approach to Tehran. Relations between the two neighbouring states have been strained in recent months
over a number of security and commercial disputes. How to deal with Iran has reportedly become a matter of
contention between Turkey’s Islamist leaders and the
country’s powerful military and security agencies.