The unjustified keeping of an Iranian dissident residing in Iraq is a hostage taking at the behest of the Iranian regime, Iranian dissidents said. They urged immediate intervention of the US and UN for his release.
On March 16, the 60-year-old Safar Zakery was returning with an empty water tanker to his residence in Camp Liberty, the temporary Iraqi community of some 3,000 Iranian dissidents when his tanker was struck by a Humvee belonging to the SWAT unit of the Iraqi police forces. No serious injuries were recorded and nearby motorists and the investigating officers all reported that the Humvee was at fault for the accident.
Nevertheless, a SWAT officer involved with the accident quickly demanded approximately $2,500 as compensation for damage to the Humvee, and the Iraqi police force took Zakery into custody. The Camp Liberty community, composed of members of the Iranian resistance group People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), described the request for compensation as extortion and immediately began a campaign to secure Zakery’s release.
That campaign has been ongoing for more than three weeks, during which time Zakery’s detention has been extended six times for different reasons each time. Now the investigating judge has extended Zakery’s detention until at least April 14.
The detention has persisted despite action by the UN’s High Commission for Refugees, which on March 23 called Zakery a person of concern. On April 1, two UNHCR representatives explained to the court Zakery’s status because he is a resident of Camp Liberty and thus protected under the supervision of the UNHCR and under the Geneva Convention.
Yet, the judge declared on April 2 that the court still must confirm Zakery’s legal status or he could be charged with illegal entry of the country. The judge has referred the case in a written directive to the Iranian embassy in Baghdad, making it even more suspicious.
The International Committee of Jurists in Defense of Ashraf stated: “All evidence point to the fact that Mr. Zakery’s unlawful detention is on political grounds. It appears that some people in the Iraqi government are planning to even prolong this detention by raising doubts about the legal status of Mr. Zakery’s residence.”
The apparent challenge to Zakery’s legal status could lead to his extradition to Iran, where members and supporters of the PMOI are subject to execution or torture for their affiliations alone.
SOURCE Iran News Update