Germany to free 'Arad bargaining chips'

Berlin rejects request of IAF navigator's family to delay release until Iran provides info on his fate.

By EHUD ZION WALDOKS
October 16, 2007 18:40
1 minute read.
Germany to free 'Arad bargaining chips'

Arad family 224.88. (photo credit: Channel 2)

 
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Germany's chief federal prosecutor said two men convicted in the 1992 assassination of four Iranian opposition figures would be released early, despite a plea Tuesday by the family of missing Israeli air force navigator Ron Arad. Arad's family asked that prosecutor Monika Harms make the early release of Kazem Darabi, an Iranian, and Abbas Rhayel, a Lebanese citizen, contingent upon Teheran explaining what happened to Arad, who disappeared after his plane was shot down over Lebanon in 1986. Harms met in the southwestern German city of Karlsruhe with Arad's brother Chen and daughter Yuval, who believe that Ron is still alive in Iran. The meeting took place, coincidentally, exactly 21 years after Arad was shot down. Chen Arad told The Jerusalem Post from Germany that he would not comment on reports that the material received during the exchange of prisoners and bodies between Hizbullah and Israel on Monday was related to his brother until he and Yuval returned to Israel in a day or two. He said in a subsequent interview with Army Radio that he had not yet seen the material. He also said the prosecutor was very polite and concerned, and he noted that the fact that she took time to meet with foreign nationals on this matter was important. The two prisoners being released were convicted in the September 17, 1992 killing of Iranian Kurdish dissident leader Sadiq Sarafkindi and three of his associates in Berlin; they were sentenced to life in prison in 1997. Harms's office said on Thursday the two would be released and deported in December, citing a law that allows early release for foreigners who have served at least 15 years of their sentence. The pair had been held in pretrial custody for roughly five years, which counted toward their overall time served. Following the announcement, the German Foreign Ministry denied speculation the release was linked to any deals with Iran. Harms, too, insisted the early release was in keeping with German law and unrelated to any outside agreements. The so-called Mykonos trial - named for the Berlin restaurant where the killings took place - raised an uproar when a German court ruled that Iran's spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and then-president Hashemi Rafsanjani had ordered the murders. Both countries withdrew their ambassadors at the time.

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