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Swiss, Iranian Opposition Protest French Expulsions

December 31, 1994

Undated (AP) _ PARIS (AP) - France’s repatriation of two Iranians held in connection with the 1990 assassination near Geneva of an Iranian opposition figure drew protests Friday from Switzerland and an Iranian dissident group.

France expelled the pair to Iran on Wednesday night in ″the national interest,″ the prime minister’s office said. The sudden action came despite a Swiss extradition request for Mohsen Sharif Esfahani, 37, and Ahmad Taheri, 32.

Switzerland suspects the two men in the April 1990 slaying near Geneva of Kazem Rajavi, the brother of Massoud Rajavi, leader of an opposition group, the Baghdad-based Mujahedeen Khalq.

In Paris, Swiss Charge d’Affaires Christian Dunant formally protested to the French Foreign Ministry, delivering a note saying the French action violated European extradition treaties and a European accord against terrorism.

A 1957 European Convention on extradition obliges France and Switzerland to cooperate in such matters.

Mujahedeen leader Massoud Rajavi, in a message to the French Foreign Ministry, also protested the expulsion and said France was making ″an extraordinary concession to the mullahs ruling Iran.″

Rajavi also demanded the Swiss government push for the men’s extradition.

Switzerland, however, doesn’t plan to ask Iran for extradition as Tehran wasn’t expected to hand over its own citizens, said Folco Galli, a spokesman for the Swiss Justice Ministry in Bern.

At Swiss request, Esfahani and Taheri were arrested in Paris in November 1992. A Paris court approved extradition last February, but the move was delayed by French foot-dragging.

The conservative government’s decision to repatriate the suspects provoked protests throughout France, including from the opposition Socialist Party.

″How can we ostentatiously declare that we are vigorously fighting terrorism when at the first chance we get, we refuse to turn over to justice suspects in an assassination on behalf of a foreign power,″ Socialist spokesman Jean Glavany said.

Switzerland in recent years has extradited Iranians sought in France on similar charges. They remain in French custody.

Paris and Tehran have had rocky relations since the 1979 Iranian revolution, breaking then mending ties on several occasions.

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