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Italy puts Iranians in house arrest.

After almost two months in jail, two Iranians arrested in Italy for smuggling arms were shifted to house arrest last week following a nonstop campaign by the Iranian government to get them freed.

Two Iranians and five Italians were arrested early in March for shipping military gear to Iran. There was no word on whether the Italians remain in prison.

One of the arrested Iranians was Hamid Masoumi-nejad, 51, the Rome reporter for Iranian state radio and television. Iranian officials went into a loud fury over his imprisonment, but basically ignored the other Iranian, who was originally identified as Homayoun Bakhtiyari but later was reported by the Italians to be Ali Damirchi-Lou.

The Iranian government and media have carried out a constant campaign ever since charging that Masoumi-nejad was unjustly imprisoned in an effort to pressure the Islamic Republic over its nuclear program.

The media in Tehran have laughed at the charges against Masoumi-nejad, saying he was charged with sending pistols and rifles to Iran when Iran makes all the pistols and rifles it needs.

Actually, the charges against Masoumi-nejad were rather more involved than that.

The Italian government said the smuggling racket was uncovered when Romanian customs officers unearthed a shipment of 200 gun sights and alerted Rome last year. As Italian police investigated, they found the group was trying to fulfill an order for 1,000 gun sights and that 120 buoyancy compensators designer for military divers were about to be shipped.

Among other articles involved were anti-tank projectiles, chemicals for explosives, tracer bullets, pistols, optical equipment and parts for bombs.

The shift to house arrest was originally announced by the Iranian ambassador in Rome and later reported by the Italian new agency ANSA.

Italian prosecutor Armando Spataro said the two Iranians worked for Iran's secret service and that two other Iranians, believed to be in the Islamic Republic, were being sought on the same charges. He said some of the Italians were in the import-export business.

He said they bought equipment in Europe, mainly Germany, and then shipped it to Iran through third countries and mislabeled as non-military goods.

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Publication:Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
Date:May 7, 2010
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