IranMiddle EastNorth AmericaQasem Suleimani

Judiciary: US holding 15 Iranians hostage

The United States is holding as many as 15 Iranians hostage under the pretext of bypassing American sanctions against the Islamic Republic, an official at Iran's Judiciary says.

Ali Baqeri, the Judiciary’s deputy for political affairs who also heads the government branch’s High Council for Human Rights, made the remarks to Iran’s Jam-e Jam newspaper in an interview published on Monday.

“The Americans take Iranians hostage under hollow pretexts, seeking to exchange them with criminals of American nationality, who are staying in Iranian prisons,” he said. “This is outright hostage-taking,” the official added.

He noted that the prisoners are among roughly 3,500 Iranians who were being held in prison abroad, adding that the Islamic Republic is “seriously pursuing” their cases.

Gen. Soleimani’s assassination

Baqeri also addressed the issue of the country’s legal efforts aimed at consigning to justice those behind the assassination of Iran’s top anti-terror commander, Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani.

General Soleimani was assassinated in a US drone strike targeting his convoy in Baghdad in early January as he was on an official visit to the Iraqi capital.

Iran has issued arrest warrants against US President Donald Trump, on whose direct orders the assassination took place, and other American officials behind the killing.

The Judiciary has been tasked with following up the prosecution of the perpetrators through domestic and international channels.

Baqeri said Judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi has personally formed a panel to pursue the case.

According to the official, the Islamic Revolution Courthouse that is responsible for addressing international cases has also granted legal representation rights to six countries that have somehow been involved in the assassination.

These countries are, therefore, required to provide necessary cooperation with Iran in order to both alleviate ambiguities surrounding the case and gather further evidence related to the assassination, he noted.

The official said he had recently met with Germany’s ambassador to Tehran to urge Berlin’s assistance in this regard given the US’s use of its German-based military outpost to enable the assassination.

Baqeri noted that a number of German lawmakers have also issued a complaint against the role that the military outpost played in enabling contact between the drones that were involved in the terrorist act. 

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