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France freezes Iranian assets after raid on Shia group

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The raid at the Centre Zahra France in Grande Synthe, near Dunkirk, early Tuesday AFP

The French authorities have frozen the assets of Iran's ministry of security and intelligence and two Iranian men, one of whom is accused of involvement in a bomb plot in June. Police raided a Shia-Muslim organisation on Tuesday morning, apparently on the grounds that it supports the Iranian-backed groups, Hezbollah and Hamas.


The decree announcing the asset freezes, published in the government gazette, identified one of the men as Assadollah Asadi, the same name as an Iranian diplomat who has been arrested over an alleged plot to bomb an Iranian opposition group in France this summer.

A German court on Monday ordered Asadi's extradition to Belgium, where he is accused of being the mastermind of the alleged plot the annual conference of the People's Mujahedin (MEK).

Israel's intelligence service, Mossad, gave Germany, France and Belgium crucial intelligence information about the alleged p^lot, according to Haaretz newspaper.

Three detained after Shia group raid

Another decree has frozen the assets of a Shia-Muslim group based in northern France for six months, along with those of three other organisations based at its offices.

Some 200 police on Tuesday detained 11 people connected with the Centre Zahra France, reportedly one of the largest Shia centres in Europe, and raided premises, seizing weapons and equipment, according to sources.

Three people were remanded in custody later in the morning, illegal possession of arms was the principal charge against them, according to police sources.

The Centre Zahra France, the Anti-Zionist Party, the Shia Federation of France and France Marianne Télé, are being investigated for condoning terrorism because of their alleged support for organisations such as Lebanon's Hezbollah militia and the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, both of which are backed by Iran and labelled "terrorist" by Israel, the EU and the US.

An official statement accused the centre's leaders of "its leaders' pronounced support for several terrorist organisations and in favour of movements advocating ideas contrary to the values of the republic".

The raids were carried out according to the provisions of the tough anti-terror law passed by the French parliament in October last year.

Efforts to salvage nuclear deal threatened

France told its diplomats and Foreign Ministry officials in August to postpone indefinitely all non-essential travel to Iran because of the alleged bomb plot, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters news agency.

A diplomatic row over the arrests could damage European efforts to save the Iran nuclear deal following President Donald Trump's announcement that the US waqs pulling out of it in May.