Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Has Iranian ex-minister been murdered in Israel?

WAS ALI REZA ASGARI the mystery prisoner in Unit 15?

HAS an Iranian general and former minister been murderd in an Israeli prison cell?
IF so, how wide will the international repercussions be?

The English-language Tehran Times carries this item today:

Iran’s former deputy defense minister martyred in Israeli prison
Tehran Times Political Desk

TEHRAN - Iran’s former deputy defense minister, Alireza Asgari, has died in an Israeli prison, Iran’s deputy foreign minister for Middle Eastern affairs announced on Tuesday.

Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Ra’ouf Sheibani expressed deep regret over the martyrdom of Asgari and has asked the international community to take immediate action against the Zionist regime for committing such a crime.

The action of the Zionist regime, which kidnapped Asgari with the cooperation of the United States, is a concrete example of state-sponsored terrorism, Sheibani stated.

Alireza Asgari was kidnapped by Mossad agents in Turkey on December 9, 2006.

The Iranian accusation comes after Israeli news media have had deliberately vaguely-worded reports of a mystery death in Ayalon prison, - such as this from YNet:

“An inmate held in solitary confinement at Ayalon Prison committed suicide by hanging in his cell two weeks ago. The warden team that noticed him took him down and tried to revive him, but in vain. He was taken to the prison clinic and was pronounced dead.

Unlike in earlier cases, the Prison Service did not release a press statement and no details were give of the man’s identity. This is the 13th prisoner that managed to commit suicide in prison or in detention, and the second this month.”

Not for the first time, reports in Israel had referred to a “Prisoner X,” who was being held in secret, neither their identity nor the reasons for their incarceration being revealed. On a previous occasion it was a Jewish scientist, Marcus Klingsberg, believed to have uncovered secrets of Israeli biological warfare research, and accused of spying for the Soviet Union, who was secretly held prisoner for a decade in the 1980s.

This time, according to American-based blogger Richard Silverstein, who claimed to have it from confidential Israeli sources, the mystery prisoner in Ayalon prison's Unit 15 - a high security solitary unit originally built to hold Yigal Amir, the assassin of Yitzhak Rabin - was "a former Iranian Revolutionary Guard general and government minister under former President Khatami named Ali-Reza Asgari. Western news outlets reported in 2007 that he either defected or was kidnapped by the Mossad, with the assistance of western intelligence agencies (either the CIA or British or German intelligence depending on the source) in Istanbul. A conservative Iranian publication first reported last year that Asgari was in an Israeli prison and this was reported by AP as well. Israeli media reported he had defected, and an Israeli claiming connections to Israeli intelligence reported to me that he was living quite comfortably 'in Virginia'. In hindsight, this seems a rather clumsy piece of disinformation."

Israeli and Western media had claimed Asgari had willingly defected and was co-operating with intelligence agencies. The Washington Post said the former general was providing information about Hezbollah in Lebanon and its Iranian connections, some of it relating to the 1983 bombing of a US marines barracks in Beirut. He had also provided information pertaining to the Mahdi army in Iraq, and had smuggled out documents with him from Iran.

The New York Post reported that an Iranian dissident group helped plan the defection and was negotiating with Western intelligence agencies for a “permanent place of exile”. According to The Sunday Telegraph, Asgari’s defection was part of a CIA program called “the Brain Drain”, which began in 2005 and later netted Iranian nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri.

The Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot reported that Asgari had told US interrogators Iran was secretly attempting to enrich uranium with a combination of lasers and chemicals at a weapons facility in Natanz; this would act as a backup if the publicly known facilities and activities were stopped by sanctions or military strikes. Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman expanded upon this reporting in his book The Secret War with Iran, in which he stated that Asgari had not only supplied the information regarding lasers, but had also revealed that a second site for centrifuges had been built near the principal Natanz site, and that a Syrian nuclear program, developed with North Korean help, was being paid for by Iran.

But had the Iranian general really provided all this information, and how genuine was it, or his "defection"? Some of the stories claimed that Asgari had made arrangements to bring his family out of Iran so they could join him in exile somewhere.

But on March 12, 2007 the missing man's relatives turned up outside the Turkish embassy in Tehran, where they had come to ask the Turkish authorities to investigate his disappearence. Asgari had been on a business trip to Syria when he was persuaded to go to Istanbul, some say by either the CIA or the BND, German intelligence, and it was in Istanbul that he supposedly changed hotels, then disappeared. There were reports that he was taken to a US base in Germany before being handed over to the Israelis.

"Claims by western intelligence to have scored a coup by securing the defection of a senior Iranian general were contradicted yesterday by the man's relatives, who claimed he had been kidnapped by US or Israeli agents. Relatives of Ali Reza Asgari, an Iranian former deputy defence minister who disappeared during a trip to Turkey, said reports that he had fled to the west were 'lies'. They said he would never have spied on Iran or abandoned his family...

"... Gen Asgari's wife, Ziba Ahmadi, emerged with his brother and three of his children to talk to reporters. They said all the general's close relatives remained in Iran. "We are here in Iran and have not gone anywhere," said Mrs Ahmadi. "These are enemies' rumours. My husband did not have any problems with Iran that would have led him to seek asylum. The person who wants to seek asylum first takes his family with him."

It was Richard Silverstein, again, in his Tikkun Olam blog, who reported yesterday " news from Israel that Asgari is dead in his cell. According to the standard version, he committed suicide in his cell within the past week or so. Ynet reported the suicide story and noted that it was under gag order.

Silverstein cites Israeli reporters acknowledging that prisoners are sometimes held in secrecy at the behest of the security and intelligence agencies, and asks:
"Did such an agency have an interest in silencing the detainee? And if so, was a death declared a “suicide,” really murder? In the case of the death of a prisoner under special treatment [held by the security services], why it was not within the power of the Prison Service to prevent the suicide or some other form of violent death.

Reporting that some sources deny that the dead prisoner was in fact Asgari, and acknowledging discrepancies in the stated age of man, (some say 32, whereas Asgari was 58), Richard Silverstein says this could be a mistake, and that those who dispute the identity have not come up with an alternative name. He believes that it was the Iranian ex-minister:

"This raises the question: why was Asgari considered so hot a figure that someone in the security services may’ve wanted him dead? It should be noted that it would’ve have been relatively easy for someone to kill Asgari. An earlier Ynet article, also gagged, noted that he was held incommunicado and had no contact whatsoever with the prison guards or other authorities. Any prisoner held under such extreme conditions of isolation could be killed at will.

"Why kill him? It would be incredibly difficult to explain to the world how and why Israel held a senior Iranian official in one of its prisons when it was telling the world he was enjoying his new life as a defector in Virginia. It would enormously complicate relations with Turkey (on whose soil he was abducted) and Iran (with whom Israel is almost in a state of war). It also seems likely that the security services, as I guessed in my earlier post, must’ve exhausted the useful information they could get from him. And so in yet another sense he was expendable.

"But expendable for whom? It would appear that the Mossad, which originally kidnapped him would be the main culprit. If he was murdered, the authors of this crime must’ve figured that it would be that much more difficult for anyone to pursue his trail if they murdered him than if he remained alive. The question now becomes what they’ve done with his body. Will they make it too disappear as they did Asgari himself when they kidnapped him in Istanbul in 2007? This would be the ultimate insult and would render his killers virtual impunity for the crime. His family, which protested in Teheran last month on the anniversary of his fourth year in captivity, will have no body to mourn, no one to bury. One wonders whether, as in China, at some unspecified future date, Israel will offer the family what’s left of him plus a bill for his execution. I apologize for the darkness of this comment, but how else is one supposed to react to this abomination?

"A word about the official version of suicide: originally the Mossad put out the story that Asgari hadn’t been kidnapped and wasn’t in Israel. Both of these stories appear to have been false. The suicide story appears equally self-serving. Remember too that the Mossad’s method of killing Mahmoud al-Mabouh in Dubai allowed the world to believe he has died of a heart attack. Only a far more sophisticated toxic screen determined that he’d been drugged as part of a murder. So the Mossad is very good at these smokescreens when it wants to cover the tracks of its murders. ...

He goes on to wonder: "And what will this do to future cooperation among intelligence agencies who may be running Iranian spies and potential defectors? If rumors are correct and Asgari was lured to Istanbul by a German BND-run false flag operation, and then rendered to the Mossad after capture, why would any such agency willingly cooperate with Israel in future, unless the goal is to glean as much information as possible from such a figure and then kill him when he becomes inconvenient.

"This story cries out for further exposure on the part of the western and Israeli media. Frankly, so far I have found it impossible to place this story in a more MSM publication. Two Israeli journalists discovered that they couldn’t get permission to interview me about the story. And other western media have not been willing to publish my research. Let’s hope with this alarming news that will change.

"Otherwise, Asgari will be yet another almost anonymous statistic in the rapidly heating Cold War between Israel and Iran".

Indeed with the Iranian government currently accusing Britain of conspiracy alongside the Israelis and the CIA, and the Turkish authorities likely to demand an explanation over kidnapping from their soil, it looks as though both the British and German governments may be required to say something.

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