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Argentina given ultimatum by British High Court to produce evidence against former Iranian ambassador

Argentina was given an ultimatum by London`s High Court on Tuesday to produce evidence against Hadi Soleimanpour within the next two days or otherwise the former Iranian ambassador to Buenos Aires would be released on bail, IRNA reported from London.

Justice Royce said that he was worried that there was not adequate evidence against Soleimanpour, held on a provisional extradition warrant, and cannot continue to detain him in prison for an unlimited period while waiting for documents.

In an appeal against two previous bail refusals, the former ambassador`s barrister Alan Jones argued that Argentina had produced nothing new in making the extradition request against his client in relation to the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires. Argentina has had many years to prove its case but it has never happened, said Jones. The existing files show that there is not any strong evidence, he told the judge.

He argued that it was an `unusual case` against Soleimanpour, who had taken a sabbatical break from the Iranian Foreign Ministry to study a PhD course at Durham University in northeast England two years ago.

It was now 17 days since his arrest on the provisional extradition warrant but Argentina had still not produced any new evidence, the barrister said in presenting his case for bail.

For the prosecution, James Hinz argued that Argentina wanted him still to be held, claiming that there had been a lack of Iranian cooperation in investigating the 1994 case and that the former ambassador could leave the UK if he was given bail.

He suggested that documentary evidence would be produced in the next 10 days, but that some papers could be received within the next few days.

But Hinz accepted that there was not `absolute` evidence and that the extradition request was because Argentina wanted to question Soleimanpour for further evidence in relation to the bombing case. Justice Royce said that he was ready to extend the former ambassadors` detention but only for a very short period unless Argentina presented evidence that it should be continued.

He adjourned the case until Friday to allow Argentina a few more days and would consider his continued detention if Argentina and its lawyers produced more documents, otherwise he would be immediately released on bail.

Altogether Argentina has until September 19 to produce its extradition case and it is at that stage that Home Secretary David Blunkett will have to sign an Authority to Proceed if a committal trial is to go ahead.

Speaking after the appeal hearing, Jones, who led the prosecution team in Spain`s extradition case against former Chilean President Augosto Pinochet, told IRNA that he was `very pleased` with the judge`s latest decision.

He said that showed that the `deadlock had been broken` and the `ball was now in Argentina`s court`. He said that he was confident that Soleimanpour would be granted bail on Friday.

... Payvand News - 9/9/03 ... --

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