PM slated for letting terror suspects go

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The Independent Online
PARIS (Reuter) - Edouard Balladur, the French Prime Minister, faced harsh words yesterday for flying two suspected Iranian assassins home to safety instead of handing them over to Swiss justice.

The decision by Paris to reject a Swiss extradition request for the pair against the advice of its own courts, brought criticism from the French and Iranian opposition as well as from victims of pro-Iranian attacks that terrorised France in the 1980s.

'Terrorism is international yet we're now refusing to co-operate with Swiss justice,' said Francoise Rudetzki, maimed in a 1986 bombing in Paris by pro-Tehran guerrillas and now head of an association of victims of such attacks.

The opposition Socialists said the decision was 'incoherent and deplorably inconsequential'. Mohsen Sharif Esfahani and Ahmad Taheri were taken from jail and flown home secretly last week despite a French court ruling last February in favour of their extradition to Switzerland.

Mr Balladur made the move public in a terse statement on Thursday, two days after the flight. 'The French authorities have decided not to extradite (the two) for reasons involving national interest,' a statement from his office said.

In an unusually sharp statement, Switzerland described the move as 'disconcerting' and lodged a formal protest 'against this breaking of the European extradition accord'.