NewsOtherTrial of Iranian official accused of dissident assassination begins...

Trial of Iranian official accused of dissident assassination begins in Rome

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AP: The trial began on Wednesday of an Iranian accused of the 1993 slaying of an Iranian dissident who died in a hail of automatic gunfire
as he was being driven along a Rome street.
Lawyers for the victim’s family allege that the defendant, Amir Mansur Assl Bozorgian, who is being tried in absentia, was an Iranian killer
sent by his country’s leadership to murder dissident Mohammed
Hussein Naghdi. Associated Press

ROME – The trial began on Wednesday of an Iranian accused of the 1993 slaying of an Iranian dissident who died in a hail of automatic gunfire as he was being driven along a Rome street.

Lawyers for the victim’s family allege that the defendant, Amir Mansur Assl Bozorgian, who is being tried in absentia, was an Iranian killer sent by his country’s leadership to murder dissident Mohammed Hussein Naghdi.

Naghdi, 42, was killed when a gunman opened fire from a motorcycle while the victim was being driven to his office in Rome. The killer fired from the rear of the vehicle, and the two people aboard the motorcycle fled.

Naghdi joined an Iranian opposition group a few years after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini led the 1979 revolution.

He acted as the representative in Italy for the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which is part of the Mujahedeen Khalq, or People’s Mujahedeen, the leading Iranian opposition group.

The Mujahedeen Khalq participated in the revolution but soon fell out with the clerical government and launched a campaign of assassinations and bombings, which landed it on the list of terrorist organizations of the United States and the European Union.

Until the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, it fought Iran’s Islamic rulers from there with the backing of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

At the time of the slaying, the dissident group blamed Iran’s government for the murder; Tehran blamed the killing on disputes between opposition groups.

Carlo Taormina, who is representing Naghdi’s widow in a civil suit linked with the criminal case, said Bozorgian is also accused of possessing the automatic weapon used for the attack. He said investigators were not able to determine the identity of the motorcycle driver.

Taormina claimed that the prosecution had documents proving that Bozorgian acted on orders from Iran’s leadership and that “he came to Italy to kill.”

Prosecutor Franco Ionta declined to comment on that, saying he would lay out the prosecution’s case at the next trial session, scheduled for May 30.

Taormina told The Associated Press that Bozorgian has been identified as an intelligence officer posing as a diplomat by a former Iranian official now working with prosecutors and scheduled to testify at the trial.

Taormina declined to name the witness, but opposition official Farid Soleimani said he was a former head of intelligence operations at Iran’s embassy in Paris.

“Naghdi’s murder was part of a campaign to eliminate Iranian dissidents, and the orders came from the regime,” Soleimani told reporters at the trial.

Officials at the Iranian embassy were not immediately available for comment.

During Wednesday’s session, the court assigned Bozorgian a new lawyer, who was given a few weeks to prepare the defense. The defendant’s whereabouts are unknown.

A few years after Naghdi’s killing, two Algerians and an Iranian were charged with the murder, but the charges were dropped for lack of evidence.

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