Argentine Judge Allows Departure of 12 Crew Members of Grounded Venezuela Plane

Argentine Federal Judge, Federico Villena on Monday authorized the departure of 12 Iranian and Venezuelan crew members of the Venezuelan-Iranian cargo Boeing 747-300 that was seized at the Ezeiza International Airport last June.

Despite allowing the departure of the crew members, Villena ordered four Iranians and three Venezuelans to be retrained in Argentina while further investigation is being conducted,

The crew members that will remain were identified as Gholamreza Ghasemi, Abdolbaset Mohammadi, Mohammad Khosraviaragh and Saeid Vali Zadeh from Iran, and Victor Perez Gomez, Mario Arraga Urdaneta and Jose Garcia Contreras from Venezuela.

Argentine intelligence services raised doubts that the Iranian nationals were members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, and still suspect their role as crew members.

As per the court decision, more investigation is needed to find out if the crew of different nationalities, on the pretext of carrying out legal activity, were involved in financing terrorist operations, especially for the Hezbollah group.

On June 6, the plane arrived in Argentina from Mexico, with 14 Venezuelans and five Iranians on board after being refused landing in Uruguay.

At that time, Uruguay’s Interior Minister, Luis Alberto Heber, said that his country had received a formal warning from Paraguayan intelligence warning about allowing the plane to land, forcing it to return to Argentina where it has grounded since then.

The aircraft previously belonged to Iran’s Mahan Air and was bought a year ago before flying under the color of Venezuelan freight carrier Emtrasur, a subsidiary of flag airline Conviasa. The three companies are on the US Treasury Department’s blacklist for their alleged role in providing Iranian-sponsored terrorist activities around the globe.

Argentina is exercising extreme caution with any matter involving Iran as it issued warrants for a number of former Iranian leaders for their alleged involvement in the 1994 attack against the AMIA Jewish center, which killed 85 and injured 300. 

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian last week called on the Argentine diplomatic representative in Tehran to release the crew members, describing them as senior civilian personnel who were cooperating in the training of Venezuelans to operate the plane.

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