Kurdish-German fights Iranian Interpol listing

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Kristen Allen - [email protected]
Kurdish-German fights Iranian Interpol listing
Photo: Interpol

An Iranian-born German citizen is fighting to have his name removed from Interpol’s most-wanted list after allegedly being placed there by Iran for his work with Kurdish activists opposed to the regime in Tehran.


Mohammad Saleh Sardari, a Kurd who has been a German citizen for more than 10 years after seeking asylum in 1991, discovered that his name had been added to Interpol’s “Red Notice” list last November, he told The Local on Tuesday.

The 52-year-old Cologne resident stands accused of having ties to organised crime and being involved in "transnational crime" by public prosecutors in Iran along with ten other individuals in Sweden. According to Interpol, their status “requests (provisional) arrest of wanted persons, with a view to extradition,” which means the men are unable to travel outside the countries they live in without risking detainment.

All of the men deny the charges, and those in Sweden staged a protest outside the parliament in Stockholm last Thursday in hopes of gaining attention for their plight.

“We are together, they are my friends,” Sardari told The Local, explaining that he belongs to an opposition party in exile, the Worker-Communist Party of Iran, or Hekmatist.

“We have fought for 30 years against the Islamic Republic – fighting for freedom, human rights, women’s rights, and against executions, stonings and other injustices.”

Some 30 years ago he was shot in his right leg at a street protest during the Iranian revolution in the country’s Kurdistan province, and bullet fragments still pain him today, Sardari said.

“We are actually the victims of terrorism, but now unfortunately Interpol has added our names to their terrorist list,” he said. “I am afraid."

After receiving no response to letters he sent to Interpol, Cologne police and all of Germany's main political parties, Sardari sought the help of lawyer Franz Hess, who told The Local he has turned to the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) and government data protection officials to help his client.

“Iran’s registry of their names is incomprehensible,” Hess said. “These are people from a Kurdish region in Iran where during the revolution in ‘79 there were strong Kurdish organisations and also conflicts – but this is still no reason to add their names to the an international authority like the Interpol system 30 years later.”

Because of the way Interpol functions, the likelihood of German intervention is low, he said.

However, the fact that Sardari has yet to be arrested by German officials makes clear that they “have no interest in acting as henchmen for the Iranian regime,” he added.

“The question is how reliable a system like Interpol can be when it serves such criminal regimes,” he concluded.

In an email response to The Local’s inquiry on the case, the Interpol press office said it could not comment directly on Sardari’s case, but explained that Red Notices are simply a way to inform member countries that an arrest warrant has been issued by a judicial authority.

“It is not an international arrest warrant, nor can Interpol demand that any member country arrest the subject of a Red Notice,” the statement said. Interpol’s job is to help national police in finding these individuals, but not to “assess the evidence in a case or a request for a Red Notice.”

Member countries or individuals may challenge such notices, but the organisation said it does not intervene based on political concerns.

Sardari and his colleagues in Sweden continue to await response to their challenges registered with Interpol – in addition to any word from their respective government authorities on the matter.

“We have no idea when we’ll hear back,” Hess said.

The German Foreign Ministry did not respond to The Local’s requests for comment in time for this article’s publication.



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