Germany expels two Iranian embassy employees over death sentence

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has condemned sentence against Jamshid Sharmahd

The German authorities have called on Iran to rescind Jamshid Sharmahd's death penalty. AFP
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Two employees of the Iranian embassy have been ordered to leave Germany in protest over Iran sentencing a dual German citizen to death, the Foreign Office in Berlin said on Wednesday.

Jamshid Sharmahd, an Iranian-German, was sentenced to death by a court in Tehran on Tuesday after being found guilty of planning and directing terrorist acts.

Mr Sharmahd, who also has US residency, was accused of being the mastermind of the 2008 bombing at a mosque that killed 14 people and wounded more than 200 in Shiraz, southern Iran.

He was further accused of “corruption on Earth”, a broad charge that has been brought against a number of suspected terrorists, as well as religious minority activists and protesters.

Germany declared the embassy employees “persona non grata”. Iran's charge d'affaires was also summoned over the issue, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said.

“He was informed that we do not accept the massive violation of the rights of a German citizen,” she said.

“We call on Iran to revoke Jamshid Sharmahd's death sentence and provide him with a fair appeal process based on the rule of law.”

Also on Wednesday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz condemned as unacceptable the death sentence handed out to Mr Sharmahd, calling on Iran to reverse the ruling.

"The Iranian regime fights its own people in every possible way and disregards human rights," Scholz wrote in a Tweet.

On Tuesday, the German Foreign Office condemned the death sentence against Mr Sharmahd as “completely unacceptable.”

“We call on Iran to review and alter the decision. Our reaction will be firm,” it said.

It added that Mr Sharmahd was denied a fair trial.

“He was put on display, had no freely chosen counsel, and consular access was denied,” it said. “We have consistently advocated for Mr. Sharmahd and will continue to do so with insistence.”

Mr Sharmahd's arrest was announced in 2020 by the Intelligence Ministry, which called him “the ringleader of the terrorist Tondar group, who directed armed and terrorist acts in Iran from America”.

About two dozen foreigners and dual citizens are detained in Iran as hopes fade of reviving the 2015 deal on Tehran's nuclear programme, and the country is reeling from four months of anti-regime demonstrations.

Last month, Iran executed former defence minister Ali Reza Akbari, a British-Iranian who was convicted in Tehran of spying for MI6, the UK’s foreign intelligence agency, and accused of being involved in the assassination of senior nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

Mr Akbari was hanged “after going through all the legal procedures and confirming the court verdict in the Supreme Court”, the Iranian judiciary's Mizan agency reported.

Also in January, Iran sentenced a Belgian aid worker to a total of 40 years in prison and 74 lashes on charges of spying for the US, money laundering and currency smuggling.

Olivier Vandecasteele was sentenced to 12 and a half years in jail on each of three charges — espionage, collaboration with hostile governments and money laundering — and fined $1 million.

He was also sentenced to two and a half years on the currency-smuggling charges.

Tensions between Iran and the West have intensified in recent months, pushing already-stalled efforts to revive talks on Tehran's nuclear programme further into the background.

Germany has been a vocal backer of EU sanctions against Iran over its action against protesters in the country. The bloc plans to widen the measures to include Iranians involved in the Russian war in Ukraine.

Updated: February 22, 2023, 12:01 PM