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IRAN: Provincial court official shot dead by unknown gunmen near Turkish border

January 19, 2010 |  7:31 am

More deadly violence in Iran. 

This time, a prosecutor in Iran’s northwestern province of West Azerbaijan was gunned down by unidentified attackers late Monday night, media reports say.

Two gunmen reportedly opened fire on Vali Haji-Qolizadeh, the city prosecutor of Khoy, outside his home in the town. 

The governor of Khoy, Ebrahim Mohammadlu, told Iran’s state-run broadcaster IRIB that Haji-Qolizadeh was shot twice and died after he was transferred to a hospital.

Already four suspects have been arrested in connection with the shooting. Although no one has officially been blamed for the killing, an Iranian judicial chief  has suggested it could be the work of a Kurdish guerrilla group.

"So far, no group has claimed responsibility for this terrorist act," provincial judiciary chief Mohammad Ali Mousavi was quoted as saying by ISNA news agency. "But in view of the threats and plans the PJAK group had announced previously, it is probable that this group is involved in the assassination."

PJAK, or the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan, is a militant Kurdish nationalist group mainly based in Iran's northwest and west areas.

The killing of Haji-Qolizadeh comes less than a week after a university scientist was killed by a remote-controlled bomb in Tehran, an incident Iran has blamed on the United States and Israel. 

The U.S has dismissed allegations it was involved in the attack that killed Tehran university scientist Massoud Ali-Mohammadi, a supporter of Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi.

In contrast, some Iranian opposition websites have identified Haji-Qolizadeh as a government supporter and hard-line loyalist.

According to reports from Iranian state media, Haji-Qolizadeh had an outstanding anticorruption record and tackled sensitive court cases in his work in Khoy, a city of around 180,000 people near the Turkish border. Iran's West Azerbaijan province borders Turkey and Iraq and the area has previously been the scene of unrest and sporadic clashes between security forces and Kurdish separatist groups.

He had a "brilliant record in battling land-grabbing, moral corruption, and counterrevolutionaries," Ebrahim Mazraeli of the Khoy governor's office, told the semiofficial Iranian news agency Fars.

According to the English-language Iranian broadcaster Press TV,  the prosecutor had received a number of death threats recently. The chief prosecutor of the West Azerbaijan Province said those threats had come from PJAK.

The killing of Haji-Qolizadeh is the most recent incident in a string of assassinations in Iran's Kurdish areas.

In mid-September last year, Mamosta Sheikholeslam, the representative of the Kurdistan Province in Iran’s Assembly of Experts, was shot twice in the head by unknown gunmen in a mosque in the Kurdistan provincial capital Sanandaj. He died instantly. 

Just a few days before, Sanandaj’s interim Friday prayers leader Borhan Ali was shot dead by a number of unidentified gunmen in the same town. There were also failed attempts to assassinate a number of local judges in Sanandaj around the same time.

-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut

Photo: Former Khoy prosecutor Vali Haji-Qolizadeh. Credit: From the website of Iran's state-owned Press TV.