By Saeed Azimi

Argentina must release all Iranian crew members, not just one!

September 14, 2022 - 21:31

TEHRAN — On Wednesday, Argentine officials confirmed the release of 12 of the 19 crew members of a Venezuelan cargo jet seized in June at Washington's request.

Argentina's courts concluded that the 11 Venezuelans and one Iranian on board the cargo jet may legally depart the country.

Officials have urged the investigation's judge, Federico Villena, to rule on the fate of the remaining seven crew members within the next 10 days.

According to local media, Villena was directed to expedite and complete "all pending proceedings, the characterization of the procedural situation, and the limits imposed on individuals and things."

This plane, which belonged to Iran's Mahan Air company until a year ago and was sold to the Venezuelans entered Argentina from Mexico on June 6 with 14 Venezuelan and five Iranian crew members. However, two days later, Uruguay refused to allow it to enter the country for emergency refueling and closed its airspace to the Venezuelan plane. The plane was forced to return to Argentina, where it has been taken hostage until now.

Iran and Venezuela have made extensive diplomatic and judicial efforts for the release of their citizens, asking the Argentine government to facilitate the release of their citizens and not to give in to American-Israeli lobbies. 

The Israeli regime’s lobby is extensive in Argentina, and the Tehran Times has learned that this lobby has disclosed to some MPs close to the Israeli circles that the plane boarding five Iranian crew members is a “booty” to them, urging two MPs close to the Israeli lobby to file a lawsuit against the plane and its crew members. 

The suit against the Venezuelan plane is ridiculous as the claimants change their accusations on a daily basis. First, they stated that the plane transmitter was switched off.

The claim was rejected by the Argentine judge. The trend of accusations then continued with the MPs accusing the pilot, who is a veteran Iranian captain training the Venezuelan pilots of flying to Damascus and smuggling weapons to Syria. 

However, the Tehran Times has learned that the pilot in question, Gholamreza Ghasemi has had over 1000 flights over the past 40 years, and during his career as a pilot, he flew 6 times to Damascus, all flights being commercial jets transferring Iranian pilgrims. 

Since the Venezuelans did not have a pilot and a technical team in order to use the aircraft, based on a contract signed between Tehran and Caracas, Iranian pilots were to undertake the training of Venezuelan pilots and technical teams.

Based on the contract, pilot Gholamreza Ghasemi along with another person are the only master pilots who had the license and knowledge of the aircraft to transfer knowledge and provide training, according to informed sources. Therefore, they were sent to Caracas. 

The aircraft was sold to Venezuela by the Civil Aviation Organization of Islamic Republic of Iran.

Delegacion de Asociaciones Israelitas Argentinas (DAIA) as well as other Israeli institutions in Argentina have repeatedly instructed the prosecutor to wait until Tel Aviv, London and the FBI conduct their evaluation reports. They have also pushed for comments from the Uruguay security ministry, which is an unprecedented action in similar cases.  

Upon the arrival of the plane, the Argentines took the passports of the Iranian crew which has never happened in the aviation industry!

An informed source told the Tehran Times correspondent, “One week after the passports of the Iranian crew were taken, the Argentine security forces strangely attacked the residence of the Iranian crew and seized all their electronic equipment and told them that they do not have the right to leave the country, imprisoning them in their rooms.”

This happens while the government of Argentina and its president have declared that a mistake has been made, but since the judiciary is independent, the government cannot interfere in the case.

In response to the incident, the president of Venezuela emphasized that the United States has kidnapped an Iranian pilot as well as four crew members in Argentina and violated all ICAO rules.

The trend of Israeli lobby interference in the Argentinian judicial process is worrisome. If not resolved, this could lead to similar incidents in other countries. The Argentine government must immediately release all Iranian crew members, not just one!

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