Iranian diplomat seeks asylum after joining opposition group

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The Independent Online

A diplomat from the Iranian embassy in Belgium said that he would seek asylum in Norway, joining a small movement of foreign service officials who have left their posts in protest over alleged human rights and electoral abuses in Iran.

Farzad Farhangian, 47, called for the overthrow of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at a news conference, where he was accompanied by a former Iranian consul in Norway who defected in January. "Given recent events in Iran, yes, I want this government overthrown," said Mr Farhangian, who said he was a deputy consul in Brussels with responsibility for media affairs.

He added that he was putting his weight behind a group called Green Embassy composed of a handful of exiled Iranian diplomats, including Mohammad Reza Heydari, the former consular official in Norway who now lives in Oslo.

Phone calls to the Iranian embassies in Oslo and Belgium were not answered.

Mr Farhangian said he left his job in Brussels last week after a year of conflict with the ambassador there over alleged fraud in Iran's 2009 presidential election and subsequent crackdown on protesters inside Iran.

When he left, he said, a "delegation" of officials from Iran was on its way to Brussels to deal with his case. He said his family members would also be seeking asylum in Norway.

"My life and the life of my family is in danger," he said.

He said he had no prior connection to Norway but came to be with Mr Heydari. He said he was also "old friends" with Hossein Alizadeh, who resigned last week from the Iranian embassy in Finland to join the political opposition.

Mr Heydari said Green Embassy was supported by businessman Amir Hossein Jahanchahi, the London and Paris-based founder of the dissident organization Green Wave.