Pilot of grounded plane in Argentina denies IRGC affiliation

In an interview, the Iranian pilot of a Venezuelan cargo plane that ran aground in Argentina three months ago denied any connection to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).

In the interview with Al Mayadeen Espanol published on Friday, Captain Gholamreza Ghasemi reaffirmed that he was a flight instructor and had no connection with the Iranian military except for having fought in the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988) as a volunteer in the Basij Popular Mobilization Forces.

The plane’s crew have been detained in Buenos Aires since early June for alleged links to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Al-Quds Force and links to international terrorism.

Gerardo Milman, an Argentine lawmaker, told Iran International in June that the Iranians on board the Venezuelan plane planned “attacks on human targets”. Milman also alleged that Captain Ghasemi was a senior member of the Quds Force (Quds).

Ghasemi told Al Mayadeen, a network close to the Islamic Republic, that he had informed the Argentine authorities before their arrival in Buenos Aires on June 8 that there were two Venezuelans on board the Boeing 747 who were undergoing training by him. .

Gholamreza Ghasemi during his TV interview

According to Ghasemi, everything seemed normal when the plane entered Argentina, unloaded its cargo and took off for Paraguay. Apparently, after returning to Buenos Aires following Paraguay’s denial of entry, Argentine authorities said they would not provide fuel for the plane when it wanted to depart. “If we had been supplied with fuel, we would have left the country and nothing would have happened.”

“Since that day, there have been a series of problems that the Argentines have used as pretexts to justify their action,” he added.

The plane had to return to Argentina when Uruguay refused to allow it to land. “I have never witnessed a case in the world where a country allows planes to fly in its airspace and an entry permit, and suddenly cancels them in the middle of a flight. This is the first times I’ve seen something like this in 20 years,” Ghasemi said.

The head of Paraguay’s National Intelligence Secretariat, Esteban Aquino, told the country’s Spanish digital newspaper ABC Digital on June 18 that Ghasemi had ties to the IRGC despite Argentina’s claims that no evidence linked the case to the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force.

Ghasemi also said that many Argentine officials have said in interviews that there is no pending case against the flight crew and that they can leave Argentina but “the law must be respected” they therefore await the decision of the court and the judicial authorities on the matter.

The US Department of Justice said on August 2 that he was seeking to take possession of the cargo plane because it previously belonged to the Iranian Mahan Air which is believed to have links with terrorist groups.

Iran has denied that the Boeing 747 belongs to Mahan Airlines, sanctioned by the United States in 2008 for its links with the Quds Force, the IRGC’s extraterritorial intelligence and covert operations unit, which has been listed as an organization terrorist by the United States.

At the beginning of 2022, Conviasa in Venezuela decided to create a cargo division called Emtrasur Cargo and its first aircraft was the Boeing 747-300M purchased or leased from Mahan Airlines and named “Louisa Caceres Arismendi”.

The Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires also issued a statement on June 17, saying the Boeing 747 was used by Iranian company Mahan Air and was carrying “a group of Iranian officials, including a senior executive from the airline Qeshm Fars Air,” accused of carrying weapons for Hezbollah during Syria’s civil war.

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