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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Where is Ali Reza Asgari?

Remember Ali Reza Asgari, the Iranian general who 'disappeared' a couple of months ago? Well, Pajamas Media's Tel Aviv editor Allison Kaplan Sommer thinks she knows what happened.... Maybe....

Suddenly, a new account appeared on a Persian language blog, which, if true, would mean that Asgari defected from Iran and applied for political asylum to the United States of his own free will, and utterly de-legitimize repeated attempts by the Iranian regime to suggest that he was somehow kidnapped.

The account appeared promising. After all, it provided documentation — something all of the rumors, speculation and anonymously sourced news stories haven’t provided until now.

There’s just one problem – the organizations whose documents these are meant to be, say they are fake.

Either scenario is intriguing in its own right – either one in which the documents are real, the denials are a cover-up and Asgari’s defection is being kept top secret — not only by the U.S. government, but by the United Nations.
Or the alternative – that somebody, for some reason, had enough interest in promoting a false tale of a deal and defection with the U.S. to go to the trouble of whipping up these falsified papers and feeding them to the Persian-language blogosphere.

The documents come from the blog of Amir Farshad Ebrahimi, someone who claims to know Asgari and who himself defected from Iran in February of 2006. Ebrahimi received the documents which appeared to prove that Asgari sought refugee status from the United Nations, from a source he describes as “a friend who is 100 percent reliable: who works for an unnamed organization in Turkey.”

He says that he initiated the search. “I am very interested in this story because I knew Asgari personally,” Ebrahimi told Pajamas Media by telephone from his home in Turkey. “We served together in the Revolutionary Guards.”

Ebrahimi, who today describes himself a human rights activist, graduate student and author living in Turkey and Germany. According to his Wikipedia entry, he is a former Iranian soldier who served as the media attaché of the Iranian embassy in Beirut for two years from 1997 to 1998. He is a graduate student in Ankara. He is best-known for appearing in a controversial videotape in the year 2000, apparently confessing to a link between the hardline Iranian political and religious leaders and violent faction in Iran, revealing a number of their inside secrets, for which he was sentenced to two years in prison.

Read it all.


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