KUALA LUMPUR, Jun 25 – A Malaysian court on Monday ordered an Iranian extradited to Thailand over an alleged bomb plot against Israeli diplomats, after February blasts that saw Tehran accused of a terror campaign.
Masoud Sedaghatzadeh was arrested at Kuala Lumpur’s international airport on February 15, a day after an apparently unintended explosion at a house in Bangkok revealed the supposed plan in the Thai capital.
One day earlier bomb attacks had targeted Israeli embassy staff in India and Georgia, and Israel accused Iran of responsibility, pushing tensions between the arch-foes to a new spike. Tehran denies the allegations.
Sedaghatzadeh is among three Iranians being held over the Bangkok blast. Two are in custody in Thailand, including one suspect who hurled a bomb at police while fleeing, blowing off his own legs.
At a criminal sessions court in Kuala Lumpur, Judge S. Komathy described Sedaghatzadeh, 31, as a “fugitive criminal” and said she disagreed with defence arguments that there was no evidence against him.
“In my view the conduct of the respondent is inconsistent with that of an innocent man,” she said.
“The prosecution has shown that the respondent is a fugitive criminal… as he is wanted by the Thai police for offences which come within the definition of extradition offences.
“I’m allowing the application for extradition and the respondent is to be detained in prison pending an order from the minister (of home affairs).”
Sedaghatzadeh, who was handcuffed and wore a striped polo shirt, told the hearing through an interpreter that he would appeal to the high court against the extradition.
“I require more time to defend myself,” he said.
Muslim-majority Malaysia, which has no diplomatic ties with Israel, and Iran are both members of the 57-country Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and have a cordial relationship.
But Kuala Lumpur also has close links with neighbouring Thailand.
Thai police have said that Israeli diplomats were the intended target of the plot, and that prosecutors have referred a case against five Iranians to court for a possible trial.
Aside from Sedaghatzadeh and the two being held in Thailand, two other suspects are believed to have returned to Iran.
Sedaghatzadeh was looking to travel on to Iran himself when he was arrested, Malaysian authorities have said.
He has said he is a car parts dealer who came to Malaysia on business, while his lawyer Mohamad Nashir Hussin said his client had visited Thailand for a “short holiday” and was not involved in the house explosion.
“There is no evidence of direct involvement and of knowledge (of the explosives) from the respondent,” he told the court Monday.
Prosecutor Kamal Baharin Omar said closed circuit television footage from cameras in the area showed Sedaghatzadeh and two other suspects leaving the house after the blast.
He added that if extradited to Thailand, Sedaghatzadeh faced charges of using explosives — which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment — and causing harm with explosives.
An Iranian diplomat was present during the hearing but declined to comment on the case.