On Monday 18th September, President Joe Biden ordered the release of five Iranian criminals, in a prisoner-swap deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran. It was the latest, disgraceful incidence of Western governments surrendering to the Iranian regimes gangster policy of hostage diplomacy. The five Iranians were exchanged for four innocent US and one British citizen who had been held hostage in Iran, charged with trumped-up claims of spying. 

The prisoner swap, ironically, took place on the first anniversary of the murder of Mahsa Amini, the young Kurdish girl beaten to death by the mullahs’ morality police in Tehran. As thousands of expat Iranians joined mass demonstrations in cities around the world to commemorate her death, President Biden’s shocking act of appeasement came as a blow to those who have sought justice for Mahsa Amini. Her brutal killing sparked a massive insurrection that engulfed the whole country. 

Tens of millions joined the protests, mainly led by women. Thousands of courageous female teachers, medical staff, nurses, students, factory workers, pensioners and even school children, took to the streets chanting: “Down with the dictator, be it the shah or the sheik”. The mullahs killed 750 of the protesters and jailed over 30,000. Indeed, in a frenzy of killings aimed at terrifying the unruly population, the theocratic regime has hanged 600 people so far this year. But fearless Iranian women continued at the forefront of the uprising, demanding the overthrow of the theocratic and misogynist dictatorship. 

Political leaders around the world have called for Iran’s Supreme Leader – Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and its President Ebrahim Raisi, to be indicted for crimes against humanity and brought to trial in the international courts. Instead, the Americans invited Raisi to address the UN General Assembly, held in New York on 19th September. Dubbed ‘The Butcher of Tehran’ for his notorious role as an executioner during the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, Raisi will regard his invitation to New York as a diplomatic coup. 

Indeed, in a further bizarre twist, the UN Special Rapporteur on Iran is now calling for an investigation into the 1988 massacre with the aim of prosecuting those found responsible, which would undoubtedly include Raisi. The majority of those executed were members or supporters of the main democratic opposition movement – the People’s Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI). They were mostly young, well-educated, Iranian men and women. It is Resistance Units of the PMOI that have burgeoned in towns and cities across Iran during the uprising, leading the protests and calling for regime change. The PMOI is led by a woman, Mrs Maryam Rajavi. 

The Biden administration’s doleful act of appeasement was compounded by the release of $6bn of frozen assets, returned to the clerical regime via a bank in Qatar. With the Iranian economy in freefall as a result of tough Western sanctions and decades of corruption, maladministration, and financing proxy wars across the Middle East, the majority of the 85 million Iranian population is now struggling to survive on incomes below the international poverty line. But it is quite certain that none of the $6bn will be used to alleviate their suffering. Despite assurances from the mullahs that the money will only be used for humanitarian purposes, it will inevitably find its way to funding Bashar al-Assad’s bloody civil war in Syria, the Houthi rebels in Yemen, the brutal Shi’ia militias in Iraq, and the terrorist organisations Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. It will also bolster the financing of the regime’s ongoing clandestine nuclear programme and their sponsorship of domestic oppression and international terrorism, through the auspices of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the regime’s Gestapo.

Biden’s prisoner-swap deal followed hot on the heels of a similar act of hostage diplomacy in Brussels in August. Assadollah Assadi, a convicted Iranian terrorist, was sent back to Tehran to a hero’s welcome from Raisi, in exchange for a young Belgian charity worker held hostage by the mullahs. Assadi was a senior officer of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) who functioned under the guise of being a registered diplomat in the Iranian embassy in Austria. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison by a Belgium court, for the crime of directing the bombing of an Iranian opposition rally in Paris in June 2018, a rally which I attended. Indeed I was a plaintiff at his trial.

Assadi had been closely tracked by European intelligence agencies after he flew to Vienna in a commercial airliner, carrying the professionally constructed 550 gm TATP bomb in his diplomatic pouch. He was filmed handing the bomb to three co-conspirators in a Luxembourg pizza restaurant, together with instructions on how to detonate the device, and €22,000 cash. He was eventually apprehended in Germany, while his three co-conspirators were arrested in Belgium enroute to the Iranian opposition rally in Paris. Had Assadi’s plot succeeded, hundreds of men, women and children, including prominent international political figures, would have been killed or maimed. 

The presiding judges in Antwerp left no doubt that the conspiracy was ordered from the highest echelons of government in Tehran, including the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the president at that time Hassan Rouhani, and the then foreign Minister Javad Zarif.

The Iranian regime tried to secure Assadi’s release claiming diplomatic immunity and when this failed, they simply seized an innocent Belgian charity worker, Olivier Vandecastille and sentenced him to 40 years imprisonment, 74 lashes and $1m fine. They then blackmailed the weak Belgian government into signing a prisoner swap deal. This was a shameful humiliation for Europe and a serious blow to Europe’s system of justice, undermining the security services and the courts. Predictably, then Assadi was arrested, Josep Borrell, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security, said nothing. When Assadi was sentenced for terrorism, he said nothing. When he was released and sent home to a hero’s welcome, he said nothing. Neither did Charles Michel, the President of the European Council. Borrell and Michel are arch Western appeasers of the theocratic regime. Now, the mullahs know that they can secure the release of any convicted Iranian terrorist or criminal simply by seizing Western hostages. 

In July last year a Swedish court passed a sentence of life imprisonment on Hamid Noury, an Iranian executioner. It was a severe blow to the mullah’s theocratic regime. It was the first time an official of the regime had been sentenced for his involvement in the 1988 massacre of political prisoners. The Swedish authorities heard evidence that PMOI/MEK prisoners were executed between 30 July and 16 August 1988 in the Gohardasht prison in Karaj, Iran, where Noury was assistant to the deputy prosecutor – Ebrahim Raisi. The indictment stated that Noury was “suspected of participating, together with other perpetrators, in these mass executions and, as such, intentionally taking the lives of a large number of prisoners, who sympathised with the Mojahedin and, additionally, of subjecting prisoners to severe suffering which is deemed torture and inhuman treatment".

As the case closed, Amir Abdollahian, the Iranian regime’s foreign minister, declared the court in Stockholm was not competent to issue a sentence and called for Hamid Noury's immediate release! He also summoned the Swedish ambassador in Tehran to receive the regime's severe objection to the indictment of Hamid Noury. Then, in an attempt to blackmail the Swedish government, the theocratic regime announced that an Iranian-Swedish dual national, Dr Ahmad Reza Jalali, would be executed. The Swedish foreign minister immediately telephoned Abdollahian to protest about this outrageous move. 

Jalali, a Swedish-Iranian physician, was arrested in 2016 and sentenced to death by the Revolutionary Court in 2017 on the usual trumped-up charges of spying for Israel. His imprisonment and sentence have been widely condemned by human rights organizations. There is no doubt that the Swedish government must stand firm in the face of such provocation. This is the regime’s criminal system of hostage diplomacy escalated to a new dimension, where they are threatening to hang an innocent dual-nationality hostage.  

Now the mullahs’ regime has cemented strong ties with the Russians and have supplied Vladimir Putin with thousands of lethal drones and missiles, which his forces have used extensively to kill and maim innocent Ukrainian civilians and to destroy their power plants and vital infrastructure, surely this must be the last straw for the west? Surely the time has come to close our embassies in Tehran and withdraw our ambassadors, while simultaneously expelling all Iranian diplomatic staff and their agents from western nations? The focus of the west must now be on regime change in Iran and supporting the Iranian people.