Denmark convicts exiled Iranians of spying for Saudi Arabia
A Danish court on Friday convicted three leaders of an Iranian Arab separatist group based in the Scandinavian country of spying for Saudi intelligence between 2012 and 2020.
Danish court on Friday convicted three leaders of an Iranian Arab separatist group based in the Scandinavian country of spying for Saudi intelligence between 2012 and 2020.
The three, aged 40 to 51 and one of whom is a Danish citizen, are members of the separatist organisation ASMLA (Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz), which Iran considers a terrorist group.
Their sentencing will be announced in March. They face up to 12 years in prison.
Following a lengthy trial held behind closed doors, the Roskilde court found the trio guilty of “gathering information on individuals and organisations, in Denmark and abroad, as well as on Iranian military affairs, and transmitting this information to a Saudi intelligence service”.
Sunni Saudi Arabia is the main rival in the Middle East of Shia Iran, and Tehran regularly accuses it, along with Israel and the United States, of supporting separatist groups.
lawyer for one of the three, Gert Dyrn, had argued that the group’s actions were a “legitimate resistance towards an oppressive regime”.
The three have been held in custody in Denmark since February 2020, under special protection due to the nature of their case.
Their identities have not been disclosed.
The case dates back to 2018 when one of the three was the target of a foiled attack on Danish soil believed to be sponsored by the Iranian regime in retaliation for the killing of 24 people in Ahvaz, southwestern Iran, in September 2018.
Tehran formally denied the attack plan in Denmark, but in 2020 a Danish court jailed a Norwegian-Iranian for seven years for his role in the plot.
That attack put Danish authorities on the trail of the trio’s ASMLA activities.
– Danish protests –
lmost a year-and-a-half later, Danish authorities announced they had charged the head of the ASMLA and two other exiled members in Denmark.
The Danish government summoned Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Copenhagen and an official protest was lodged with Riyadh, as Danish intelligence services accused their Saudi counterparts of financing illegal operations conducted by the group.
The Roskilde court found the ASMLA leaders “guilty of creating an intelligence unit for a Saudi intelligence service over a period of several years”, based among other places at an address in the Copenhagen suburb of Ringsted.
The trio was also convicted of “promoting terrorism” for supporting the activities of ASMLA’s armed branch.
The jury found that “the actions and attacks of these movements are terrorist attacks which exceed the limits of legitimate freedom fighting”.
Finally, they were also convicted of “financing and attempted financing of terrorism”, for having received 15 million kroner (two million euros) from a Saudi intelligence agency as well as having tried to obtain another 15 million from the same source.
The money was aimed at financing ASMLA’s activities, the court found.
Lawyer Gert Dyrn has accused the Danish legal system of playing into Tehran’s hands.
“We are here — all of us, in fact — as lackeys of the Iranian regime”, he had said on the sidelines of the trial.