Iranian Diplomat Says He’ll Seek Asylum In Finland

Iranian diplomat says he'll seek asylum in Finland

September 13, 2010

HELSINKI—-An Iranian diplomat who quit his job at his country's embassy in Finland said Monday he will apply for political asylum there.

Hossein Alizadeh said he stepped down as the embassy's No. 2 because of the Iranian government's crackdown on citizens protesting the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last year.

“I cannot accept, tolerate this fraud election. The situation got worse because … my people are being killed still,” Alizadeh told reporters in Helsinki.

He is the second Iranian diplomat in Europe known to have quit to protest the Iranian government's clampdown on dissent. Iranian consular official Mohammed Reza Heydari left his post in Norway in January and was granted political asylum there.

Alizadeh announced his defection last week from the post he had held for two years, saying he was no longer a diplomat but “a political dissident.”

The Iranian Embassy in Helsinki declined comment but said in a statement that Alizadeh's term of office had been terminated on Aug. 20.

Alizadeh said he has no political ambitions except to be a member of the Europe-based Green Wave opposition movement, “just to be a member standing beside the others.” The movement grew out of unrest that followed the June 2009 disputed presidential election, in which, the opposition says, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected through fraud. Street protests led to massive arrests and a continuing crackdown.

“There are a lot of pro-Green movement diplomats” who had set up a network of “Green embassies” that keep up in contact with opposition members, he said.

“Ahmadinejad is not any more the Iranian leader and he doesn't represent Iran,” Alizadeh said. “Do not take him seriously. He (does) not have any popularity among the Iranians.”

The 45-year-old Alizadeh said that since the Green Wave movement was formed after the 2009 election, he “felt confident that I have been followed and bugged.” He said that his criticism of the regime also gave him cause to worry about the safety of his wife and family who live with him in Finland, including two sons and an eight-year-old daughter.

“Using this language puts me in a situation to look for shelter for myself. I am going to request political asylum from the Finnish government, and here are my passports,” he said throwing four of them on a table. “I am going to leave these passports to whoever lets me stay here.”

Alizadeh said he could have applied for political asylum in many countries but added that he liked Finland and that it was a “secure country and stable.”

About 2,500 Iranian immigrants live in the Nordic country. About 300 were granted political asylum in 2008 and 2009, according to official immigration statistics.