Iranian in Malaysia denies Thai terror accusations

AP News
Posted: Mar 15, 2012 3:29 AM
Iranian in Malaysia denies Thai terror accusations

An Iranian man held in Malaysia and accused of involvement in an alleged plot to attack Israeli targets in Bangkok resisted extradition on Thursday, claiming he had been in Thailand only for a vacation.

A handcuffed Masoud Sedaghatzadeh, 31, appeared briefly in a Kuala Lumpur court, saying through an interpreter that he had nothing to do with the accusations and wanted to know why he was there.

Sedaghatzadeh was arrested at a Malaysian airport soon after an apparently accidental explosion rocked a residential Bangkok neighborhood Feb. 14, followed by two more explosions on nearby streets. Thai police say bombs were found in the house where the blast occurred, and that Sedaghatzadeh and two Iranian men now in Thai custody were seen leaving the building.

Thai officials have said Israeli diplomats may have been the target of the alleged plot.

Israel has blamed Iran for the explosions, which wounded five including one of the alleged bombers, as well as two incidents the day before: a bombing in India that wounded an Israeli diplomat's wife and driver, and an attempted bombing in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. Iran has denied involvement.

On Wednesday, a New Delhi court issued a warrant seeking the arrest of three Iranians accused of being involved in the blast there. The men where identified as Housan Afshar, Syed Ali Mehdi Sadr and Mohammed Reza Abolghasemi, according to a police official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

The police official said the government would approach Interpol for help in locating and extraditing the men, whose whereabouts are not known.

Sedaghatzadeh's Malaysian lawyer, Nashir Hussin, said his client insists he went to Thailand for a holiday at the beach town of Pattaya, before coming to Malaysia to buy automobile parts for his business in Tehran.

"He met a lot of Iranians there, took pictures, said hello and goodbye," Nashir told reporters. "He does not know any of them, he can't remember anyone. He is incriminated by the pictures."

Prosecutors in their application said the Iranian was wanted by Thailand on suspicion of "taking part in making and possessing an explosive device" as well as causing an explosion that led to human injuries and property damage. He faces life in prison if convicted in Thailand.

The court scheduled a hearing for April 16 after government lawyers said they were waiting for photos and security camera footage from Thailand.

Sedaghatzadeh's parents attended Thursday's hearing but refused to speak to reporters. Nashir said his client's parents were "very shocked" with his arrest.

Thai authorities want Sedaghatzadeh to be handed over immediately, but Malaysia has said the process must go through the courts under extradition laws.

(This version CORRECTS lawyer's name.)