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Iran Justice Minister Vows to Retaliate Canada’s Confiscation of Iranian Assets

Iranian Justice Minister Seyed Alireza Avayee underlined his country's efforts and measures to retaliate against Canada's illegal seizure and selling of Iran's properties.

“We will retaliate as much as possible and as much as the international regulations enable us to do so,” Avayee told reporters in the Northwestern city of Zanjan on Tuesday.

The Iranian justice ministry in a statement last Tuesday had deplored Ottawa for selling Iran’s properties, and called for Canada’s official apology and restitution of assets.

“The Canadian government’s recent measure under the pretext of supporting alleged victims of terrorism across the world and selling a part of Iran’s seized assets in the country is a violation of the principles of the international law in every aspect,” the statement said.

It referred to Canada’s attempts to pressure Iran at international bodies under the pretext of violation of human rights, and said the country has embarked on selling Iran’s assets while Ottawa’s hands are stained with the blood of the indigenous Canadian people and it should account for its crimes and violation of their rights.

The justice ministry condemned the Canadian seizure and sales of Iranian assets as a flagrant violation of the international law, and stressed the need for Ottawa to extend an official apology and restitute Tehran’s properties.

Canada has gifted some $30 million worth of Iranian assets to the victims of terrorist attacks in which Iran says has not been involved.

The victims have received their share of the money earned through the sale of two Iranian-owned buildings in Ottawa and Toronto, a document filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in August reveals.

The valuable Ottawa property, sold for $26.5 million, was used as the Iranian Cultural Center, and the Toronto building, sold for $1.85 million, served as the Center for Iranian Studies, the Global News reported.

In addition to the $28 million earned from the sale of the two properties, the victims were also awarded a share of some $2.6 million seized from Iran’s bank accounts. Documents also list a Toyota Camry and Mazda MPV.

In particular, they include the family of Marla Bennett, a US citizen killed in a 2002 bombing that rocked the Hebrew University in Jerusalem al-Quds.

The attacks are mostly blamed on Palestinian and Lebanese resistance movements Hamas and Hezbollah. The families claimed that the Iranian government supported the two organizations and was therefore responsible for their actions.

Iran has denied any role in the attacks which the courts have based their cases to appropriate the country’s frozen assets. 

The seizure and sale of Iranian assets in Canada come as the country has turned into a center of fraud and a safe haven for embezzlers who manage to escape justice in the Islamic Republic of Iran, according to Iran’s prosecutor general Mohammad Jafar Montazeri.

Mahmoud Reza Khavari, a former Iranian banker, fled to Canada after a $2.6 billion financial fraud came to light in 2011. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison and the Interpol issued a warrant for him in December 2017.

Marjan Sheikholeslami, accused of embezzling public funds in Iran in two separate cases, has also fled to Canada. In 2010, amid the international sanctions on Iran, she founded various companies in Iran and Turkey to help Iran bypass the sanctions and sell its petrochemical products, but has reportedly refused to pay back the government’s money.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Mousavi earlier this month strongly condemned the sale of his country’s properties in Canada, as per a court ruling to compensate a group of so-called “terror victims”, as “a clear breach of the international law,” and urged the Canadian government to immediately return the properties and revoke the decision.

The spokesman warned that if Ottawa fails to immediately revoke the unlawful decision and compensate the damages, Tehran will take action by itself to restore its rights based on international regulations.

“In this case, the government of Canada will be held responsible for all the consequences,” he said, stressing that Iran will not compromise with any other government when it comes to protecting its citizens’ rights.

Also Iran’s Judiciary Chief Seyed Ebrahim Rayeesi blasted Ottawa for selling Tehran’s assets in the North American country, and warned Canada of reciprocal action.

“Canada’s confiscation of Iran’s assets was illegal and against all international agreements,” Rayeesi said, addressing the Judiciary officials in Tehran last week.

He warned that if the Canadian government does not release Tehran’s confiscated assets, the Judiciary in cooperation with the foreign ministry will identify and seize Canadian properties through international bodies.

“No country will be allowed at all to violate the Iranian nation’s rights,” Rayeesi said.

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