Court frees Iranian envoy wanted by Argentina

A High Court judge said yesterday there was "no clear evidence" that an Iranian diplomat arrested in Britain was involved in a bomb attack in Argentina nine years ago.

Hade Soleimanpour, the former Iranian ambassador to Argentina, was freed on bail of £700,000 pending an extradition hearing next week.

After reading two investigators' reports into the 1994 car bomb attack on a Jewish cultural centre in Buenos Aries that killed 85 people, Mr Justice Royce concluded: "The report doesn't lead to any clear evidence demonstrating his involvement in the attacks."

Mr Soleimanpour, who was ambassador to Argentina between June 1991 and August 1994, is to fight an extradition request issued by the Argentinian government at Bow Street magistrates' court in London next Friday. He wants to complete his PhD studies at Durham, where he lives with his family.

Mr Soleimanpour's lawyers, led by Alun Jones QC, say claims that he helped organise the car bombing were based on "innuendo" and meant Iran was supporting terrorism through its embassy. Mr Soleimanpour was not in Argentina at the time of the bombing, but Argentina claims he provided support for the terrorists who were allegedly linked to the Iranian embassy.

Mr Justice Royce said Mr Soleimanpour, 47, could be freed because he had known about an extradition request since March and "clearly could have departed these shores by now".

Argentina's intention seems to be to secure extradition so Mr Soleimanpour could be interrogated rather than put on trial, said Mr Jones.

His arrest last month has strained Anglo-Iranian relations in a way unseen since a fatwa was issued against the novelist Salman Rushdie in 1989. Iran's ambassador was ordered back to Tehran last weekend after Mr Soleimanpour was refused bail. And stones were thrown at the UK embassy in Tehran, prompting the evacuation of some staff.