PMOI Member Kidnapped Under Pretext of Suspicious Car Accident

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A member of PMOI has been kidnapped under the pretext of a suspicious car accident 3km from Liberty.

There have been calls on the US and UN for the immediate release of PMOI member Safar Zakery who has been in detention for the past two weeks.

There have been daily promises in the past two weeks, by Iraqi officials, regarding the release of Mr. Zakery, who is being held prisoner. All of those promises have proven to be hollow.

Mr Zakery, an Iranian refugee in Iraq, was taken to a court and the investigating judge referred the case to the Iranian embassy in Baghdad. This is a clear breach of international law.

On the morning of Monday, 16 March 2015, Mr. Safar Zakery, who has been a Camp Liberty septic tank truck driver for the past 3 years, was on his way back to the camp after emptying his truck, and while he was accompanied by an Iraqi police officer in the truck, his truck was hit by an Iraqi SWAT unit HUMVEE.

The HUMVEE was driving at an illegal speed of 60 km/h, and at a turn derailed to the left side of the road and collided head on with Mr. Zakery’s truck. Mr. Zakery was driving at a speed of 20 km/h and was on the far right side of the road. The truck suffered serious damage.

The traffic police that came to the site to examine the accident immediately announced after seeing the scene that the SWAT unit HUVMEE was responsible for the crash. Both the police officer present in Mr. Zakery’s truck and the police officer in the second truck that was traveling within a short distance of the first truck and was witness to the entire scene stressed that the SWAT HUMVEE was responsible.

However, surprisingly Iraqi agents instead of compensating the damaged Liberty truck, illegally arrested Mr. Safar Zakery and took him away. All of the Iraqi officials’ daily promises over the past two weeks regarding the release of this prisoner have proven to be hollow and this PMOI member has in fact been kidnapped. In the Ameria police station, at first one of the SWAT officers asked for 3 million Dinars for the damage caused to the Iraqi HUMVEE to close the case, yet this obvious blackmailing was rejected by the PMOI. This is while the HUMVEE driver who was responsible for the accident has neither been arrested nor summoned to the court up until yesterday.

In the past two weeks, none of the follow-ups and complaints filed by lawyers, letters issued by Liberty residents’ legal advisors and representatives, daily correspondences exchanged with UN representatives and the US Embassy, or measures taken by the UNHCR to have this prisoner released have been effective. He remains illegally in detention in prison, whereas if it were merely a car accident there was no need for an arrest and kidnapping of this man. In that case, according to Iraq’s traffic laws and the routine procedure exercised everywhere around the world, the defendant should have returned to Liberty on bail while the administrative and legal process goes on.

The actions taken by investigative judge Nasser Mousawi become very suspicious when despite having at his disposal Mr. Safar Zakery’s ID card, official ‘protected person’ ID card, his Iranian driver’s license and a letter from the UNHCR dated 23 March 2015 to Baghdad’s Karkh court saying “the Iranian national Mr. Safar Zakery is a person of concern for the UNHCR”; he has referred the issue in a written order to the mullahs’ embassy in Baghdad to identify and provide background information of this PMOI member. This despicable, foul and illegal measure practically opens the path for Quds Force criminals into this car accident case, and unveils a kidnapping scenario implemented through a suspicious accident.

The representative of Ashraf and Liberty residents wrote to the U.S. and UN officials in this regard on 17 and 18 March 2015: “We are profoundly worried about the safety and security of Mr. Zakery and the meddling of the Iranian regime in this case.”

The International Committee of Jurists in Defence of Ashraf (ICJDA) wrote in separate letters to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees as well as Iraqi Prime Minister, Parliament Speaker, Head of the Judicial Supreme Council and National Security Advisor:

“Persistence of this detention is while none of the passengers of the HUMVEE are hospitalized and the two with slight injuries have been released from hospital.

Moreover, the pertinent Iraqi authorities have even refused to accept bail by his Iraqi lawyer for Mr. Zakery and insist on keeping him in prison. All evidence point to the fact that Mr. Zakery’s detention is on political grounds and it concerns us that the car accident and the subsequent arrest of Mr. Zakery have been preplanned and there is an intention to continue this matter upon fictitious excuses. It also appears that at present 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.

This is while, like the other residents of Camp Liberty, Mr. Zakery has legally entered Iraq and his residence in Iraq has been lawful all the time. In 2004, he was given an ID card by the U.S. government and the Multi-National Forces as a “Protected Person” under the Fourth Geneva Convention. In 2011, along with other residents of Ashraf, he was recognized as an asylum-seeker by the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and is protected by international law. And on 25 December 2011, Government of Iraq signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the United Nations and assumed responsibility for protection of Mr. Zakery and other residents until their transfer to a third country. In 2009, when Maliki’s government took 36 Ashraf residents hostage, the Iraqi judges issued a verdict that the entry and residence of Ashraf residents is lawful. Thus raising suspicions about Mr. Zakery’s legal status is to ridicule the international law and obligations with the aim to take him hostage.”

The International Committee In Search of Justice (ISJ) also wrote in letters to the UN, U.S. and Iraqi officials:

“All the evidence indicate that Major Ahmad Khodheir and Capitan Heydar Azab, the intelligence officers who were involved in the massacre of the residents of Ashraf, are involved in this and are behind the illegal detention.

These facts and the refusal to release an innocent refugee, give us the strong impression that the whole story of this incident was a scripted scenario prepared by the Quds force and its agents in Iraq.”

It is worth noting that Mr. Safar Zakery, 60, is suffering from various illnesses. After three years of being on the waiting list, he has a surgery appointment at the hospital on 5 April 2015.

Emphasizing that the illegal detention of Mr. Zakery is a blatant violation of the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Government of Iran and the United Nations on 25 December 2011, and infringes the international refugee law, the Iranian Resistance asks the U.S. government, the UN and the UNHCR that have committed themselves to the safety and security of the residents repeatedly to take necessary measures to discontinue this hostage-taking, to immediately release the innocent prisoner, and to let him go to the hospital to undergo surgery operation.

Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran – paris – March 29, 2015

Shahriar Kia is a member of the Iranian opposition (PMOI /MEK). He is a human rights activist and political analyst on Iran and the Middle East.