(Photo credit: Merco Press)
Argentinian court officials announced on 15 October that the five remaining crew members of the Venezuelan plane seized by Argentina in June have been granted permission to leave the Latin American country.
The five individuals were part of the 19-member crew of a Boeing 747 plane owned by Venezuelan cargo airliner Emtrasur, which was seized by Argentinian authorities on 8 June over a violation of US sanctions on Iran’s Mahan Air, which sold the plane to Emtrasur. The sale was part of a 20-year cooperation contract between Tehran and Caracas.
Argentinian Federal Judge Federico Villena told local reporters on 14 October that there was no legal basis for prosecuting the crew members, comprising three Iranians and two Venezuelans.
On 14 September, 12 of the crew members were released by Argentina.
The Federal Judge did say, however, that the judicial investigation into the matter would remain open.
In early August, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) asked Argentinian authorities for permission to confiscate the plane, after its crew was accused of having ties to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). One of the accused members, Gholamreza Ghasemi, was among the five remaining in custody who were granted release.
In response to the DOJ’s request to confiscate the plane, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said at the time that the US was trying “to steal a gigantic, modern cargo airplane from us” with no legal basis.
In July, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian summoned the Argentinian acting Chargé d’Affaires Jorge Mariano Jordan to question Buenos Aires’ reasons for exit restrictions imposed on five Iranian crew members.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry said at the time that the seizure of the plane and detainment of the crew members was “a manifestation of the violation of human rights.”