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Source: Iranintl

May 29, 2024

Employee of Tehran's Interests Section in US Threatens Iranian-American

By Negar Mojtahedi

Canadian Iranian journalist and documentary filmmaker

A US court has issued a temporary order against Ramezan Soltan-Mohammadi, an employee of the Iran's Interests Section in Washington DC, who was seen threatening Iranian protesters to death last week.

In a video posted to social media, the man is seen making a death gesture according to one of the demonstrators in attendance, Siamak Aram, who said the man in the video directed the death gesture right at him.

"He threatened me with death by moving his hand across his throat to indicate he would cut my throat," said Aram.

The video was taken on May 22 at a rally outside a memorial service hosted by the Islamic Education Center (IEC) in Maryland for the "occasion of the martyrdom" of President Ebrahim Raisi and Iran's late foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, who both died in a helicopter crash last week. The center posted "condolences and sympathies" notes on their deaths.

Aram was an activist in Iran who fled in 2011, seeking to escape the Islamic Republic, yet this week's incident he said, proved the arm of Iran's repression extends all the way to the United States.

"I didn't expect to feel the same experience I had in Iran, here in United States. It was...15 miles away from White House and the capital," he said.

The man, later identified by Aram as Soltan-Mohammadi, allegedly is an employee of the Interests Section of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is part of the Pakistani Embassy in Washington DC, which is the de facto consular representation of Iran in the US.

Iran International has reached out to Soltan-Mohammadi for comment but has not heard back.

Jason Brodsky, the policy director of United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) told Iran International "the fact that he was an employee of the Islamic Republic's Interests Section raises tremendous concerns for me."

"The Islamic Republic has a very checkered past of trying to engage in transnational repression in Western capitals," said Brodsky.

In August 2023, a Fox New Digital report revealed a three-page GOP letter detailing Iranian regime-linked mosques and centers in Maryland, Texas, Michigan and Virginia. It claimed that the Islamic Education Center in Maryland, secured funding from what it says is the Iranian regime-controlled Alavi Foundation and Washington-based Iranian Iman, Abolfazi Bahram Nahidian.

"It is unacceptable for an employee of the Islamic Republic's Interests Section in the United States to threaten an Iranian American on US soil. The Iranian- American community was using their First Amendment right, to protest, as we have in this country. And we cannot allow authoritarian states like the Islamic Republic to try to trample on those rights on American soil," said Brodsky.

The incident allegedly involving Soltan-Mohammadi is just "a microcosm of a much larger Iran policy problem," said Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).

He said the Biden administration's policy towards Iran has been rooted in a belief that pressure drives the threats - rather than pressure being a tool to solve the threats.

The alleged death threats, according to Ben Taleblu, should serve as a wake- up call.

"I'm surprised and also worried. This is something that Iranian Americans and in general, Americans need to be concerned about, that foreign governments can actually benefit from diplomatic cover and adjudicate their fights with diaspora members, dissidents, and even just citizens of a different country on foreign soil," said Ben Taleblu.

He said, the core of the issue is the emboldenment the regime feels, not just in the US but across the Western world.

Just last Friday, the Islamic Republic's loyalists violently attacked a group of Iranian dissidents who were celebrating Ebrahim Raisi's death in London, injuring at least four people.

Ben Taleblu said the Islamic Republic's "threats vectors are evolving in drastic ways."

Earlier this year, two Canadian men with ties to Hells Angels were charged in what US authorities called a “murder-for-hire scheme” allegedly coordinated in Iran to kill Iranian dissidents in Maryland.

Ben Taleblu and Brodsky both commented to Iran International that the US State Department needs investigate and take action.

Iran International has reached out to the State Department, which would not provide comment at this time.

The Office of the Special Envoy for Iran posted to X Tuesday that it is "concerned to see reports of Iranian regime supporters threatening and attacking peaceful protesters worldwide."

Aram said he's just looking for justice.

He said he went to court Tuesday to send a message and exercise his democratic right.

"I hope that we could carry a very clear message that the rule of law prevails here. I wanted to make this message clear and also give the hope to the other dissidents of the Islamic regime," he said.

The court order prohibits Soltan-Mohammadi "from making any contact, threats, or approaching [Siamak Aram] my place of residence and employment," according to Aram whose lawyer posted the order to Instagram.

"You cannot be the member of the government. And also at the same time, making death threats to the citizens. Because if he was in power and if I was in Iran...he would execute the threat."

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