RFE/RL – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (Author)
Three members of an Iranian Arab opposition group have pleaded not guilty to Danish charges of financing and promoting terrorism in Iran with Saudi Arabia's backing.
The three, who are members of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz (ASMLA) and were arrested in February last year, risk 12 years in prison if found guilty in the trial that started in Copenhagen on April 29.
ASMLA is based in Denmark and the Netherlands and is considered a terrorist group by Iran.
The three, one of whom is a Danish citizen, are aged 39 to 50.
Gert Dyrn, a lawyer for the eldest of the three suspects, told the media that in his client's opinion "what they are charged with is legitimate resistance toward 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 said.
He added that this was "the first case in Denmark within terror law where you have to consider who is a terrorist and who is a freedom fighter."
His client has lived as a refugee in Denmark since 2006.
The three were charged by the Danish public prosecutor on April 27.
"This is a very serious case where people in Denmark have carried out illegal intelligence activities and financed and promoted terrorism from Denmark in other countries. Of course, this cannot take place on Danish soil, and therefore I am satisfied that we can now bring charges in the case, " Lise-Lotte Nilas, a prosecutor for Copenhagen, said in a statement on April 15.
According to the charge sheet, the three received around $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.
They are also accused of promoting terrorism.
The prosecutor has said the case dates back to 2018 when one of the three was the target of a foiled attack on Danish soil believed to be orchestrated by the Iranian regime in retaliation for the killing of 24 people in Ahvaz, southwestern Iran that year.
Iran has denied the attack plan in Denmark, but a Danish court last year sentenced a Norwegian-Iranian to seven years for his role in the plot.
That attack put Danish authorities on the trail of the actions of three ASMLA members.
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