COPENHAGEN, Denmark — A police operation last month that briefly cut off Copenhagen from the rest of Denmark stemmed from an alleged Iranian plot to kill an opposition activist, the head of Denmark’s intelligence agency said Tuesday while announcing a suspect’s arrest.
A Norwegian citizen of Iranian descent was arrested Oct. 21 on suspicion of helping an unspecified Iranian intelligence service “to act in Denmark” and of alleged involvement in the assassination plot, Danish security service chief Finn Borch Andersen said.
The suspect has denied wrongdoing and is being held in pre-trial custody until Nov. 8, Borch Andersen said. He did not name the Norwegian. Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said in a statement that Tehran “strongly denied” the allegations, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.
Borch Andersen said Denmark is working on the case “with a series of partners” in Europe, but stopped short of saying who they are. Intelligence agencies in Sweden and Norway cooperated with the arrest, he said.
The suspect was seen taking photos of the residences of members of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz (ASMLA) in Ringsted, a town nearly 60 kilometers (37 miles) southwest of Copenhagen, Borch Andersen said. Tehran has blamed the group for a terror attack on a military parade in the Iranian city of Ahvaz on Sept. 22 that left at least 25 people dead. ASMLA condemned the violence and said it was not involved.
The Iranian government summoned Denmark’s ambassador after the attack and accused the Danish government of harboring members of the “terrorist group.”
The Sept. 28 operation that closed access to the island on which Copenhagen is located was launched after police noticed a stolen, Swedish-registered car near the home of an Iranian opposition activist that sped up when officers were spotted.
Fearing an attack was imminent, the Danish security service, known by its acronym PET, closed the borders with Germany and Sweden, Borch Andersen said.
Investigators determined later the car had no connection to the PET probe, which produced other evidence of illegal activity taking place in Denmark involving Iran and the opposition, he said.
Denmark’s Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen and Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen on Tuesday both called an alleged Iranian attack in Denmark “totally unacceptable.” The country will respond and speak with European partners about “further steps,” they said in separate statements.
Samuelsen said Iran’s ambassador to Denmark, Morteza Moradian, had been summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Copenhagen and it was made “crystal clear” to him that “the gravity of the matter is difficult to describe.”
During a televised press conference, Borch Andersen noted that Iran already was suspected of targeting opposition groups abroad. He cited a foiled bombing attack that targeted a June rally organized by an Iranian opposition group near Paris.