Two of Iran's Presidential Candidates Are Wanted for Murder

Dashiell Bennett
The Atlantic Wire
Two of Iran's Presidential Candidates Are Wanted for Murder

Iran has announced the list of eight qualified candidates who have been approved to campaign for president, including two men who are suspects in a notorious 1994 terrorist attack. Mohsen Rezai and Ali Akbar Velayati are among the group who are looking to succeed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when his term ends this year—and both are believed to have helped plan an attack on a Jewish center in Buenos Aires in 1994. A car bomb leveled the AMIA community center, killing 85 people in the deadliest terrorist attack in Argentina's history. 

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Argentine officials have long blamed Iranian leaders for orchestrating the attack and directing Hezbollah militants for carrying it out, but Tehran has denied any involvement. (Iran has also been accused of bombing the Jewish embassy in Buenos Aires two years earlier.) Rezai was the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard at the time of the attack. Velayati was Minister of Foreign Affairs. (A third suspect, Ahmed Vahidi, is Iran's current Defense Minister.) In 2006, several Iranians were charged with the crime in Argentina, but none have been arrested and no one has ever been convicted for it.

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In 1999, one of Rezai's sons moved to the United States and accused his father of being involved in the attacks, but recanted after moving back to Iran a decade later. In 2011, the son died under suspicious circumstances while living in Dubai.

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Rezai even has an active international arrest warrant through Interpol, meaning that if he were somehow elected President of Iran, he might not be able to leave the country without fear of being arrested. Velayati, who is also considered a prime suspect, is described as a close ally of Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

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The election to succeed the term-limited Ahmadinejad will be held on June 14 and candidates had to be vetted and approved by a committee of politicians and theologians in order to compete. More than 600 other candidates were denied the right to run, as were all women. Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, who was also charged by Argentine authorities in the Jewish center attack, was also disqualified.