ISSN 2330-717X

Iranian Citizen Faces Terrorism Charges In Albania

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By Gjergj Erebara

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Bijan Pooladrag, an Iranian citizen arrested in Albania on October 2020, will face charges for collaborating with and serving persons involved in terrorism and eavesdropping, Albania’s Special Prosecution announced on Friday.

If found guilty, Pooladrag faces up to 10 years for the first charge and up to 15 for the second. He is suspected of working for the Iranian secret services and of eavesdropping on The People’s Mujahedin of Iran, MEK, an exiled Iranian opposition group many of whose members moved to Albania in 2013 on the advice of the US.

Since Albania decided to host the MEK on its territory, police have reported several issues between suspected Iranian agents and the opposition organization.

In 2019, police named several Iranian citizens as members of a cell planning terrorist attacks against MEK members living in Albania, while in 2018, the Iranian ambassador in Tirana and another diplomat were expelled over an alleged terrorist plot whose exact nature has not been made public.

The MEK is a controversial group. Founded in 1965 as a left-leaning opposition to the former Shah’s regime, it turned against the Islamic Republic following the 1979 Revolution.

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The US listed it as a terrorist organization in 1997 but removed it from the black list in 2012 after it renounced violence.

Part of the group is currently building an extended compound in central Albania to host their comrades while others live around Tirana, or have emigrated.

Mostly elderly and in some cases sick, members of the group appear to live a quiet life in Albania, despite which the Iranian government still considers them active enemies.

Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (fornerkt the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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