Iran, Russia accused of abusing Interpol to arrest foes

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Russia and Iran are among countries increasingly abusing Interpol red notices to seek the arrest of political opponents, European lawmakers warned Wednesday, citing a five-fold increase in the past decade.

The Council of Europe said in a resolution that the issuing of red notices – to inform Interpol’s 190 members that someone’s arrest is sought and thus ensure their deportation -- for such purposes was deplorable.

The number of red notices jumped to 12,787 in 2016, up from 2,343 in 2005, said the Council’s parliamentary assembly, which comprises more than 300 members of national parliaments across Europe.

“Interpol and its system of red notices has been misused by some member states for political purposes in recent years to suppress freedom of expression or to persecute political opponents abroad,” the Council’s report warned.

Among the cases cited were that of Mukhtar Ablyazov, Kazakhstan’s former energy minister, who is accused of embezzling billions of dollars from BTA bank, once a leading lender in the authoritarian republic.

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Ablyazov, also a former banker, spent more than three years in custody after being arrested by French authorities in the Cote d’Azur region in 2013 on account of a red notice issued by Russia. He was also wanted by Kazakhstan where his trial in absentia started last month.

France refused to extradite him but he languished in jail until last December when his defence successful argued that Russia’s goal was political. Attending the assembly’s hearings in Strasbourg on Wednesday, he told AFP: “Because of the red notice I spent three-and-a-half years in prison in France.”

Ablyazov has always denied the charges, claiming they are linked to his political opposition to Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev. The lawmakers’ report cited many other cases, including Mehdi Khosravi, an Iranian arrested in Italy in August 2016 on the basis of a red notice issued by Tehran, even though he had obtained political asylum in Britain.

In its resolution, the European lawmakers welcomed news that Interpol had recently adopted measures to improve the reasons for a state seeking a red notification. However, they also argued that the international police service should do more, including stronger measures of recourse for a person affected by a red notice.

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