Over two dozen Iranians jailed in Armenia for mostly drug-related crimes have been sent back to Iran since the beginning of last year, Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian said on Tuesday after talks with his visiting Iranian counterpart.
“In the course of last year and this year we handed over 25 convicts to Iran so that they serve their sentences there,” Hovsepian said. A dozen other Iranian nationals remain imprisoned in Armenia, he told a joint news conference with Iran’s Prosecutor-General Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei.
Twenty-four Iranians serving prison sentences in Armenia were similarly repatriated in early 2011. According to law-enforcement authorities in Yerevan, the total number of Iranians kept in Armenian prisons exceeded 70 before that handover. Most of them were reportedly convicted of drug trafficking.
Hovsepian and Mohseni-Ejei spoke to journalists after holding talks and signing a memorandum of understanding that calls for joint Armenian-Iranian efforts to combat “transnational crime.” Hovsepian’s press office said the document will lead to direct cooperation and mutual “legal assistance” between Armenian and Iranian prosecutors.
“Until now cooperation between the prosecutor’s offices of the two countries has been carried out through diplomatic channels,” the office said in an explanatory note.
Drug smuggling is clearly the main focus of that cooperation, with both Hovsepian and Mohseni-Ejei singling out the problem in their remarks.
“Unfortunately, in recent years there have been a number of cases where drugs were smuggled into Armenia from neighboring Iran and Turkey,” said Hovsepian. “Our cooperation will help to ensure that Armenia does not become a transit route for drug trafficking. Armenia has never been such a country,” he added.
Iran was the source of the biggest-ever seizure of heroin reported by Armenian law-enforcement bodies to date. In 2010, the Armenian police found 7 kilograms of the Class A drug which they said was smuggled by Iranian drug dealers through Turkey.
Mohseni-Ejei seemed to blame Afghanistan, Iran’s eastern neighbor, for the use of Iranian territory as a major transit route in the international drug trade. He claimed that production of narcotics in Afghanistan has risen dramatically during the decade-long U.S. military presence in that country.