The were large protests against the 2009 presidential election results, provoking a violent crackdown [AFP]

A senior Iranian diplomat has defected after resigning from his position at the country's embassy in Finland.

Hossein Alizadeh said on Monday that he had stepped down last week due to the attacks by government forces on protesters following the disputed Iranian presidential election in June 2009.

He said he would apply for political asylum in Finland.

Alizadeh had been the second-in-charge at the embassy, but has said that he will now be joining the Europe-based Green Wave movement which opposes Iran's Islamic government.

"I cannot accept, tolerate this fraud election. The situation got worse because ... my people are being killed still," he said in Helsinki, the Finish capital.

"I won't go back to Iran because I could face capital punishment. I will stay abroad as a political activist."

Alizadeh said Ahmadinejad no longer has support or legitimacy in Iran - "he is not taken seriously".

"Day by day, week by week, month by month things got worse. I could not accept such a fraudulent election," he said.

The Iranian embassy in Helsinki would not comment on Alizadeh's situation.

Second defection

Alizadeh becomes the second Iranian diplomat based in Europe to resign due to a clampdown on political dissent, following the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president amid allegations of fraud.

In January, Mohammed Reza Heydari, a consular official in Norway, quit his post and was given asylum there.

Alizadeh said that he has received "unofficial threats" via email since quitting last week.

He said that he had no other ambition than to be a member of the Green Wave movement, so that he may just be able to stand "beside the others".

Alizadeh said that he had taken a long time to decide to leave his position because giving up his privileged diplomatic lifestyle was difficult.

Alizadeh had been working for the Iranian foreign ministry for 21 years, previously being assigned to Egypt and Bulgaria. He is married with three children.

Source: Agencies