Sunday, December 12, 2004

Yahoo! News - Iran Acknowledges Terror Convictions

Yahoo! News - Iran Acknowledges Terror Convictions: "Iran Acknowledges Terror Convictions

Sun Dec 12, 9:37 AM ET Top Stories - AP
By NASSER KARIMI, Associated Press Writer
TEHRAN, Iran - Iran acknowledged for the first time Sunday that it has convicted some Iranian nationals of supporting al-Qaida, saying the number was fewer than five.

The United States has accused Iran of harboring al-Qaida operatives, with some U.S. counterterrorism officials alleging hard-line elements within the Iranian regime may have developed working relationships with some senior al-Qaida officials who fled to Iran after the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan (news - web sites). Iran has rejected the accusations.

"A few pro-al-Qaida Iranian nationals have been tried and convicted," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters.

Their number, he said, is less than "the fingers on one's hand," he said, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

He did not give details, including when they were convicted, what sentences they had received or what sort of support they had provided Osama bin Laden (news - web sites)'s terror network.

Asefi said cases of foreign nationals in Iran with alleged links to al-Qaida are still under investigation and no trial dates have been set, IRNA reported.

Iran has said it would try al-Qaida operatives in Iranian custody whose nationalities were not clear and who were not claimed by any country. It also has said it would try any al-Qaida figures accused of committing crimes in Iran.

Iran maintains it is committed to fighting al-Qaida, and insists it has significantly contributed to the war on terror by arresting al-Qaida suspects.

Last year, Iran said it was holding a large number of minor and more significant al-Qaida members captured in its territory. It also has said it has handed over more than 500 suspected al-Qaida operatives, mostly Saudis, to their respective countries.

Iran does not turn over any captives to the United States, with whom it severed relations at the time of the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran and has no extradition treaty.

Many al-Qaida operatives are believed to have fled to Iran, entering through the two nations' long, remote and porous border, after the overthrow of the Taliban regime in neighboring Afghanistan in late 2001."