FM visits Middle East for cooperation against Isis

Martin Lidegaard, calling the militant jihadists one of the biggest security threats in recent times, will be the first Danish foreign minister to visit Iran in nearly a decade.

FM visits Middle East for cooperation against Isis
Martin Lidegaard. Photo: Erik Refner/Scanpix
Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard said Saturday he was travelling to the Middle East to strengthen cooperation against Isis extremists, a day after the US called on allies to defeat them.
"My main message will be that we must work even harder to counter violent extremism," Lidegaard said in a statement in which he added that Isis was "one of the biggest, if not the biggest security threat in recent times".
Lidegaard, who will visit Saudi Arabia and Iran, said on Friday at the NATO summit in the British city of Newport that Denmark was ready to join a coalition to fight extremists in Iraq and Syria suggested by US President Barack Obama.
In the statement, the foreign ministry explained that both "the regional actors' contribution to resolving the crisis, and how the international community can fight the growing threat of violent extremism" were on the journey's agenda.
Lidegaard is the first Danish foreign minister to visit Iran since 2005.
Isis, a Sunni extremist group, has gained prominence in recent months, declaring an Islamic "caliphate" in regions under its control in Iraq and Syria.

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Danish terror trial begins against Iranian separatists

Three leaders of an Iranian Arab separatist group pleaded not guilty to financing and promoting terrorism in Iran with Saudi Arabia's backing, as their trial opened in Denmark on Thursday.

Danish terror trial begins against Iranian separatists
File photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

The three risk 12 years in prison if found guilty.

Aged 39 to 50, the trio are members of the separatist organisation ASMLA (Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz), which is based in Denmark and the Netherlands and which Iran considers a terrorist group.

The three, one of whom is a Danish citizen, have been held in custody in Denmark since February 2020.

Gert Dyrn, lawyer for the eldest of the three, told AFP that in his client’s opinion “what they are charged with is legitimate resistance towards an oppressive regime.”

“They are not denying receiving money from multiple sources, including Saudi Arabia, to help the movement and help them accomplish their political aim,” Dyrn said. 

His client has lived as a refugee in Denmark since 2006. 

According to the charge sheet seen by AFP, the three received around 30 million kroner (four million euros, $4.9 million) for ASMLA and its armed branch, through bank accounts in Austria and the United Arab Emirates.

The trio is also accused of spying on people and organisations in Denmark between 2012 and 2020 for Saudi intelligence.

Finally, they are also accused of promoting terrorism and “encouraging the activities of the terrorist movement Jaish Al-Adl, which has activities in Iran, by supporting them with advice, promotion, and coordinating attacks.”

The case dates back to 2018 when one of the three was the target of a foiled attack on Danish soil believed to be sponsored by the Iranian regime in retaliation for the killing of 24 people in Ahvaz, southwestern Iran, in September 2018.


Tehran formally denied the attack plan in Denmark, but a Danish court last year jailed a Norwegian-Iranian for seven years for his role in the plot. 

That attack put Danish authorities on the trail of the trio’s ASMLA activities.

Sunni Saudi Arabia is the main rival in the Middle East of Shia Iran, and Tehran regularly accuses it, along with Israel and the United States, of supporting separatist groups.

Lawyer Gert Dyrn said this was “the first case in Denmark within terror law where you have to consider who is a terrorist and who is a freedom fighter.”