October 28, 2010 / 3:38 PM / 9 years ago

Finland grants asylum to former Iranian diplomat

HELSINKI (Reuters) - A former senior diplomat at Iran’s embassy in Helsinki, who resigned and joined the opposition, said Thursday he had been granted political asylum by Finland only weeks after applying for it.

Hossein Alizadeh, deputy head of mission at the Iranian embassy until early last month, was at least the third Iranian diplomat this year to seek political asylum in Europe, all saying they were protesting against electoral and human rights abuses.

“I have political asylum and refugee status. I got it yesterday. It was given to my whole family, we are five,” Alizadeh told Reuters, adding that he was very happy with the swift decision on his case.

Finnish authorities were not available to comment, but an unnamed official told the biggest daily, Helsingin Sanomat, that Alizadeh’s asylum application had been processed quickly because of the way Iran was treating members of the opposition.

“The reasons are crystal clear,” the official said.

Iranian diplomats have also sought political asylum in Norway and Belgium this year.

Alizadeh has accused Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of stealing the June 2009 election from opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi and of persecuting opposition members.

He also said he feared he would face capital punishment if he returned to Iran.

Thousands of Iranians were detained in protests after the disputed June 2009 presidential vote which led to Ahmadinejad’s re-election. Most of the detainees were released but dozens remain in jail.

Reporting by Terhi Kinnunen, editing by Tim Pearce

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