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Source: The Guardian

Nov 10, 2023

Spanish police investigate possible Iran link to shooting of former politician

Alejandro Vidal-Quadras told police from hospital bed of his links to exiled Iranian opposition, source says

By Associated Press

The Spanish rightwing former politician Alejandro Vidal-Quadras is recovering in hospital after being shot in the face on a central Madrid street.

Police said they were not ruling out any theories for the attack on Thursday afternoon, including a possible link to the former European lawmaker’s ties with the Iranian opposition.

A police source close to the investigation told the Associated Press there was no evidence backing the Iranian link, but confirmed that Vidal-Quadras himself had raised the suspicion from his hospital bed and that investigators were looking into it as one of several possible motives.

In a sign that police were broadening the investigation to consider the Iranian angle, another official said a provincial brigade that handles terrorism and extremism cases had joined the investigation, previously led by agents specialising in homicides, late on Thursday.

Both officials spoke to AP on condition of anonymity to protect the secrecy of the inquiries.

Vidal-Quadras, 78, was attacked at about 1.30pm on Thursday near his home in the capital and was conscious when taken to hospital by emergency crews.

Alejandro Vidal-Quadras helped launch the Vox party but left shortly after failing to win a European parliament seat in 2014. Photograph: Lluís Gené/AFP/Getty Images

There were no immediate arrests and police were checking surveillance footage and witness accounts to identify the shooter, who had been seen wearing a black helmet. The suspect had fired one gunshot before fleeing on a motorbike driven by an accomplice.

A burnt motorbike found later in the day on the outskirts of the Spanish capital was being investigated, one of the officials said.

Four hours after the shooting, Madrid’s Gregorio Marañón general university hospital said the bullet had fractured Vidal-Quadras’s jawbone and that he would undergo surgery. It said the politician was in a stable condition and his life was not in danger.

Vidal-Quadras was a member of Spain’s conservative People’s party, its regional leader in Catalonia, and a European parliament member before leaving after three decades when he fell out with the then prime minister, Mariano Rajoy.

After he broke away, he helped found the far-right Vox party. He left Vox shortly after a failed attempt to win a European parliament seat in 2014.

As part of his political career, Vidal-Quadras has been aligned for decades with the Iranian opposition in exile, an involvement that was noticed by Tehran.

In January, the Iranian foreign ministry announced it had imposed sanctions on Vidal-Quadras along with others who had ties with the exiled People’s Mujahedin of Iran, or MEK (Mujahedin-e Khalq), accusing them of “supporting terrorism and terrorist groups”.

The group began as a Marxist organisation opposing the rule of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. It claimed, and was suspected of, a series of attacks against US officials in Iran in the 1970s, which it now denies.

In mid-September, addressing a conference organised by the group in Brussels, Vidal-Quadras criticised EU officials and leaders for not being strong enough in their opposition to Iran and in their support for the exiled opposition.

In the past, Iran’s state-run media, citing reporting by the Spanish daily newspaper El País, has alleged Vidal-Quadras’s Vox party received MEK money. It described the payments as “terrorist money”.

The MEK leader, Maryam Rajavi, wrote on X, formerly Twitter: “The Iranian Resistance sees Iran’s ruling religious fascism as the first suspect accused in this case, as Prof Vidal-Quadras has dedicated an important part of his life to fight against it.”

The president of Vox, Santiago Abascal, said: “Thank God it seems that Alejandro Vidal-Quadras is out of danger.”

The People’s party president, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, denounced the shooting and the prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, said on X: “All my warmth at this moment [is] for him and his family.”

Vidal-Quadras has not been active in politics for several years but has maintained a public role as a media commentator and columnist.

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