COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Three leaders of an Iranian Arab separatist group plead not guilty to financing and promoting terrorism in Iran with Saudi Arabia’s backing, as their trial opens in Denmark today.
The three risk 12 years in prison if found guilty.
Aged 39 to 50, the trio are members of the separatist organization ASMLA (Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz), which is based in Denmark and the Netherlands and which Iran considers a terrorist group.
The three, one of whom a Danish citizen, have been held in custody in Denmark since February 2020.
Gert Dyrn, lawyer for the eldest of the three, tells AFP that in his client’s opinion “what they are charged with is legitimate resistance towards an oppressive regime.”
“They are not denying receiving money from multiple sources, including Saudi Arabia, to help the movement and help them accomplish their political aim,” Dyrn says.
His client has lived as a refugee in Denmark since 2006.
According to the charge sheet seen by AFP, the three received around 30 million kroner (four million euros, $4.9 million) for ASMLA and its armed branch, through bank accounts in Austria and the United Arab Emirates.
The trio is also accused of spying on people and organizations in Denmark between 2012 and 2020 for Saudi intelligence.
Finally, they are also accused of promoting terrorism and “encouraging the activities of the terrorist movement Jaish Al-Adl, which has activities in Iran, by supporting them with advice, promotion, and coordinating attacks.”
The case dates back to 2018 when one of the three was the target of a foiled attack on Danish soil believed to be sponsored by the Iranian regime in retaliation for the killing of 24 people in Ahvaz, southwestern Iran, in September 2018.
Tehran formally denied the attack plan in Denmark, but a Danish court last year jailed a Norwegian-Iranian for seven years for his role in the plot.