An Albanian court has sentenced an Iranian man to terrorism charges

An Albanian court has sentenced an Iranian to 10 years in prison on terrorism charges, court officials said on Thursday.

In a Wednesday ruling, published a day later, Albania’s Special Court for Corruption and Organized Crime found Bijan Pooladrag guilty of financing terrorism and being a member of a terrorist organization. No details were given about Pooladrag’s age, hometown or when he came to Albania.

Pooladrag rejected the allegations. 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 (MEK), around 3,000 of whom live in exile in Albania. The group, previously based in Iraq, moved to the small Balkan country in 2014.

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

A September cyberattack that temporarily disabled the Albanian government's digital services led to Albania severing diplomatic ties with Iran.  Police officers are pictured September 9 walking in front of the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Tirana.  7th, 2022.

A September cyberattack that temporarily disabled the Albanian government’s digital services led to Albania severing diplomatic ties with Iran. Police officers are pictured September 9 walking in front of the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Tirana. 7th, 2022.
(Gent Shkullaku/AFP via Getty Images)

Albania’s relations with Iran were strained after the country absorbed MEK members. In two separate cases in 2020 and 2018, Tirana expelled four Iranian diplomats for “threatening national security”.

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In September, Albania severed diplomatic ties with Iran over a July 15 cyberattack that temporarily paralyzed 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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