Third Iranian diplomat defects

Farzad Farhangian becomes third diplomat this year to apply for asylum in Europe in protest over disputed 2009 election.

    Farhangian said he wanted to 'take a stand in support of the Iranian people and the [opposition] movement' [AFP]

    Farzad Farhangian has become the third Iranian diplomat this year to apply for asylum in Europe after resigning from his post in protest over the disputed Iranian presidential election in June 2009.

    Farhangian, who quit his job as press attache at the Iranian embassy in Brussels last week, told journalists in Oslo, the Norwegian capital, on Tuesday that he would ask Norway for political asylum.

    The 46-year-old  said he wanted to "take a stand in support of the Iranian people and the [opposition] movement".

    Farhangian said he had no prior connection to Norway but had come to be with Mohammed Reza Heydari, a former Iranian diplomat in the Oslo, who defected in January and was granted asylum by Norway.

    On Monday, Hossein Alizadeh, the number two at Iran's mission in Helsinki, the Finnish capital, said he would seek political asylum in Finland.

    The unrest in Iran after last year's election was Iran's worst domestic upheaval since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

    Charges of election fraud prompted massive protests and a brutal response. Authorities have tried more than 100 activists and opposition members on security charges.

    More than 80 of them have been sentenced to prison terms from six months to 15 years, and 10 of them been sentenced to death.

    Farhangian said the turning point for him came after the election, adding that he could not "come to any agreement" with the Iranian ambassador at the embassy in Brussels.

    "We have had a lot of arguments since last year," he said.

    Farhangian declined to give details about his family but confirmed that he will seek asylum for both them and himself.

    Alizadeh defection

    On Monday, Alizadeh said that he would now be joining the Europe-based Green Wave movement, which opposes the government in Iran.

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

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

    Alizadeh said Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, no longer had support or legitimacy in Iran and that the leader was "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.

    Alizadeh, who is married with three children, said that he has received "unofficial threats" via email since resigning 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.

    He had been working for the Iranian foreign ministry for 21 years, previously being assigned to Egypt and Bulgaria.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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