Arrested Pilgrims in Iraq Return to Iran

A05393215.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- Four Iranian nationals who were arrested three years ago in Iraq by US forces have been released and have returned to Iran, an official at Iran’s consulate in Iraq’s northeastern city of Sulaimaniyah said.

Alireza Mozaffari, Iran’s Consulate-General in Sulaimaniyah, told the Iranian state-run tv that the four individuals, who had travelled to Iraq on a pilgrimage, returned to Iran on Wednesday.

The four Iranians – identified as Hamidreza Esmayelzadeh, Mohammad Bajolani, Ali Asqar Shahivand and Saeedreza Noursaeed – were arrested by US soldiers on charges of illegally entering Iraq, Mozaffari said.

Mozaffari attributed the release to efforts by Iran’s Foreign Ministry and its embassy in Baghdad.

The pilgrims were repeatedly interrogated and then sent to a US-run prison in northern Iraq, where they were held for three consecutive years. They were arrested as non-pilgrims.

Every year, thousands of Iranian pilgrims travel to Iraq to visit the holy sites in the country, some of whom are arrested because of illegal entry.

Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has repeatedly urged Iranian pilgrims to carry out the legal procedures required for pilgrimage to Iraq.

Earlier this week, a deputy in charge of the affairs of the sacred shrines at Iran’s Organization for Haj and Pilgrimage, Hossein Akbari, accused Iraqi police of “harassing” Iranian pilgrims, attributing the behavior to instigations on the part of US forces.

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