Albanian court jails Iranian man for 10 years over terrorism

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — An Albanian court has convicted an Iranian man on terrorism-related charges and sentenced him to ten years’ imprisonment, court officials said Thursday.

In a ruling issued Wednesday but made public a day later, Albania’s Special Court on Corruption and Organized Crime found Bijan Pooladrag guilty of funding terrorism and being a member of a terrorist organization. No details on Pooladrag’s age, home city, or when he had come to Albania were made known.

Pooladrag denied the charges. He has the right to appeal the verdict.

Pooladrag was arrested two years ago on suspicion of spying on members of the Iranian opposition group Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, or MEK, some 3,000 of whom live in exile in Albania. Previously based in Iraq, the group moved to the small Balkan country in 2014.

Pooladrag was originally part of the MEK community, which he left almost three years ago.

Albania’s relations with Iran have been tense after the country took in the MEK members. In two separate instances in 2020 and 2018, Tirana expelled four Iranian diplomats for “threatening national security.”

In September, Albania cut diplomatic ties with Iran over a July 15 cyberattack that temporarily shut down numerous Albanian government digital services and websites. Tirana called the disruption an act of “state aggression.”

Since then, there have been several milder cyberattacks from the same Iranian source.

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