As Iranian Kurds gather in front of Iranian embassies around the world to protest the 1989 assassination of Kurdish leader Abdurrahman Qassemlou by an Iranian government hit team in Austria, new evidence has emerged linking Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the killing.
Qassemlou and two colleagues were murdered on July 13, 1989 during the third round of talks they were holding with emissaries of then-president Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani in Vienna, Austria.
The talks were ostensibly geared toward reaching a compromise that would grant Kurds greater cultural and political rights in exchange for an end to their open opposition to the Tehran regime.
Within hours of the brutal murders, the Austrian police captured two of the assassins at the scene of the crime. The following day, they found the murder weapons in a nearby trash can and matched them to the spent shell casings and bullets found at the scene.
Despite the mountain of direct evidence, they allowed the Iranian government to repatriate the killers, apparently after Iran threatened to cancel a lucrative arms deal then in the works.
New information, presented to Austrian police last week by Peter Pilz, the spokesman for Austria’s Green Party, suggests that Ahmadinejad played a personal role in the murders.
A German arms dealer, serving time in Italy on charges of weapons trafficking, gave a statement to Italian anti-Mafia investigators on April 6, 2006 detailing several meetings he had in July 1989 with Iranian government officials in Austria to discuss the purchase of some firearms.
Three Austrian officials, including a representative of the Austrian police, were present when the arms dealer, Friedel Peter Schlax, gave his sworn statement. They asked very few questions.
“When I first saw this document, I was very surprised,” Pilz told Newsmax in a telephone interview from his office in Vienna. “The first question I raised was, Why didn’t they ask him more? There were so many things to be asked, that they didn’t ask.”
According to the German arms dealer, three Iranians were present at the meetings, including “a certain Mohamed, who later became president of the Republic of Iran.”
The future president “appeared to me to be a weapons expert [and] was very interested, indeed excited, almost enthralled by the weapons,” Schlax told the Austrian police in the statement.
Pilz told Newsmax that he has questioned the Austrian police officials who were present when Schlax made his statement. “They said they found him to be quite credible, because he didn’t have a personal interest to accuse Mr. Ahmadinejad.”
Schlax identified Ahmadinejad from news photographs of the Iranian president presented to him by the Austrian police, and had no doubt that the man he had met at the Iranian embassy in 1989 was the same person, Pilz said.
“This document fully supports the serious suspicion that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad supplied the weapons that were used in the killings,” Pilz said.
Pilz says he believes that Ahmadinejad provided support to the killers, but was not one of the actual hit men.
The police turned over the information to the prosecutor’s office, but for over three years, the Austrian authorities failed to act on the new revelations, so Pilz has decided to release the information to the media.
“These guys [in the prosecutor’s office] are very close to the government, to government interests,” Pilz said. “Austria has major economic interests in Iran, and they took that into consideration” when they decided not to act on the new information.
In April 2007, Austria’s OMV group signed a $30 billion agreement with the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), to purchase liquefied natural gas and participate in a joint project to build processing plants in Iran, making OMV the largest single foreign investor in Iran’s oil and gas industry.
The statement from the German arms dealer is not the only evidence linking Ahmadinejad to the 1989 murders.
In 2005, Pilz met with an Iranian journalist at the home of former Iranian President in Versailles, just outside of Paris. The journalist said he had been friends with a member of the hit team, a Revolutionary Guards general named Nasser Taghipour.
Before he died in 2002, Taghipour gave a detailed account of the 1989 murders to the journalist, who told the story to Pilz.
“This Iranian journalist was the first to inform me that Ahmadinejad lived for one or two weeks at the Iranian embassy in Vienna at the time of the murders,” Pilz told Newsmax.
Despite his urging, the Austrian prosecutors refused to question the Iranian journalist, who was then living illegally in France.
When Pilz returned to Austria after meeting the journalist, he located former employees of the Iranian embassy in Vienna who had worked there in the summer of 1989.
“I met two former employees, and they said, ‘Yes, we saw Ahmadinejad at the embassy [at the time of the murders].’ One of them told me, ‘I cooked for him.’”
But the former Iranian embassy employees are afraid to speak out in public, and have not offered testimony to the Austrian government, for fear they would be turned over to Tehran.
Pilz says that he understands their fear. “There has been very close cooperation between our security services and the Iranian intelligence ministry in Vienna,” he said.
“The director of our secret service had to resign because of that two years ago, because I was able to prove that he did some things that were in the interest of Iran,” Pilz added.
In February 2007, U.S. forces in Iraq discovered a cache of high-powered sniper rifles made by Austrian gun-maker Steyr-Mannlicher, which had been used to target U.S. troops in Iraq.
The .50-caliber Steyr can pierce armor and has been used successfully by Iranian-backed militias in Iraq against American troops.
The Austrian government approved the sale of 800 Steyr sniper rifles to Iran in 2004, ostensibly for use against drug-traffickers.
The British intelligence service, MI5, had a surveillance team in Vienna at the time the head of Austria’s police intelligence unit was meeting with Iranian procurement officers, Pilz said.
The information they gathered was passed on to the United States, and then-U.S. Ambassador Lyons Brown Jr. delivered an official protest to the Austrian ministry of Interior about the Austria-Iran military cooperation.
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