Pilot of grounded plane in Argentina denies affiliation to IRGC
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In an interview the Iranian pilot of a Venezuelan cargo plane grounded in Argentina three months ago has denied any ties to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).
In the interview with Al Mayadeen Espanol published Friday, Captain Gholamreza Ghasemi reiterated the claim that he is a flight instructor and had no ties to the Iranian military except for fighting in the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) as a volunteer in the Basij Popular Mobilization Forces.
The crew of the plane have been held in Buenos Aires since early June over suspected connections with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force and links to international terrorism.
Gerardo Milman, an Argentine lawmaker, told Iran International in June that Iranians aboard the Venezuelan plane planned “attacks on human targets.” Milman also alleged that Captain Ghasemi was a senior official of Qods (Quds) force.
Ghasemi told Al Mayadeen, a network close to the Islamic Republic, he had informed the Argentinian authorities before their arrival in Buenos Aires on June 8 that there were two Venezuelans onboard theBoeing 747 who were undergoing training by him.
According to Ghasemi, everything appeared normal when the plane entered Argentina and unloaded its cargo and took off for Paraguay. Apparently after returning to Buenos Aires following Paraguay’s denial of entry — Argentinian authorities said they would not supply fuel to the plane when it wanted to leave. “If we had been supplied with fuel, we would have left the country, and nothing would have happened.”
“Since that day, there have been a series of issues that the Argentinians have been using as pretexts to justify their action,” he added.
The plane had to return to Argentina when Uruguay refused to allow it to land. “I have never witnessed a case anywhere in the world where a country grants permission for planes to fly in its airspace and an entry permit, and suddenly cancels them in the middle of a flight. This is the first time I’ve seen something like this in 20 years,” Ghasemi said.
Head of the Paraguayan National Intelligence Secretariat Esteban Aquino told the country’s Spanish language digital newspaper ABC Digital on June 18 that Ghasemi had ties with the IRGC despite claims by Argentina that no evidence linked the case to the Revolutionary Guards’ Qods Force.
Ghasemi also said that many Argentine officials have said in interviews that there is no pending case against the flight crew and that they can leave Argentina but that “the law should be respected” so they are waiting for the court and the judicial authorities’ decision on the matter.
The US Justice Department said August 2 that it was seeking possession of the cargo jet because it was previously owned by Iran’s Mahan Air that allegedly has ties to terror groups.
Iran has denied that the Boeing 747 belongs to Mahan Airlines, sanctioned by the US in 2008 for links to the Qods Force, the IRGC’s extraterritorial intelligence and secret ops outfit, which has been listed as a terrorist organization by the United States.
Early in 2022, Venezuela’s Conviasa decided to set up a cargo division that came to be called Emtrasur Cargo and its first plane was the Boeing 747-300M bought or leased from Mahan airlines and christened ‘Louisa Caceres Arismendi.’
The Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires also released a statement on June 17, saying that the Boeing 747 was used by the Iranian company Mahan Air and transported “a group of Iranian officials, including a senior executive of the airline Qeshm Fars Air,” accused of transporting weapons for Hezbollah during the civil war in Syria.
Source: Iran intl