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Germany Rejects Iran Extradition Request

The refusal comes a day after Chancellor Angela Merkel's government angered Tehran by saying it would offer political asylum to a group of Iranians.
BERLIN (Reuters) -- Germany has said it turned down a request from Iran to extradite a Kurdish leader, who was detained but later freed, prompting an angry response from Tehran.

The news came a day after Germany, which is involved in international efforts to curb Iran's nuclear program, said it would grant political asylum to a number of Iranians, a move which also angered the Islamic Republic.

A German Foreign Ministry spokesman said Tehran had sought the extradition of Abdul Rahman Haji-Ahmadi in December. Iran says Haji-Ahmadi leads an Iranian Kurdish separatist group from his home in Germany.

"This [extradition] was rejected at the end of January on the grounds that he is a German citizen," he added.

In the city of Cologne, public prosecutor Ulrich Boden told Reuters that Haji-Ahmadi had been detained and later freed, but declined to give any further details of the case.

Media reports suggested that Haji-Ahmadi was detained after the extradition request had been turned down.

"The European countries, despite chanting the slogan of defending human rights, are practically supporting terrorism," Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told a news conference in Tehran. "There are many clues showing that Europe has become a safe haven for terrorists."

Iran says Haji-Ahmadi leads the PJAK (Party of Free Life of Kurdistan), an offshoot of the Kurdish separatist group PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) which mostly operates in Turkey. The European Union considers the PKK a terrorist organization.

Earlier in the week Iranian parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani again called for Germany to hand over Haji-Ahmadi, calling PJAK a terrorist group.

Mehmanparast also criticized Germany for its decision to grant asylum to some Iranians, a move that appeared to be targeted at people whom Tehran regards as dissidents.

"Some people who have no problem returning to Iran...present their situation as if lives are endangered and European countries also want to use this matter to say Iranians are massively moving to Western countries," he said.

Iran was the scene of major protests after the re-election of hard-line President Mahmud Ahmadinejad last year.

Germany is working with its allies on a new round of possible sanctions against the Iran over its nuclear program, which Western nations believe is aimed at developing a nuclear bomb. Tehran says its nuclear ambitions are entirely peaceful.