Faced with growing hostility from the Iranian regime, the Canadian government sought Tuesday to portray the recent sale of Tehran’s assets in Canada as a legal dispute between “two private parties.”
With Iran demanding that Ottawa apologize and return an estimated $30-million worth of Iranian government assets seized in Canada, the federal government cast it as a court matter.
Asked to comment on the dispute, Global Affairs Canada said only that Canada had “a strong and independent judicial system” and the sale of Iran’s properties was the “result of civil litigation between two private parties.”
Iranian officials are furious that millions of dollars’ worth of the Islamic Republic’s assets in Canada — including properties and bank accounts — have been seized, sold and used to compensate victims of terrorist groups sponsored by Tehran.
In recent days, Iranian officials have threatened to seize Canadian ships and goods and “impound and confiscate” Canadian assets while accusing Ottawa of committing “economic terrorism.”
The regime reacted after Global News revealed the sale of Iran’s non-diplomatic assets last week.
Iran’s properties were seized under the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, which allows terror victims to use Canada’s civil courts to collect damages from state sponsors of terrorism.
After Canada designated Iran a state sponsor in 2012, several victims launched court cases in Ontario claiming Iran’s assets in Canada, which included the Centre for Iranian Studies in Toronto and the Iranian Cultural Centre in Ottawa.
The Ontario Court ruled there was evidence calling into question whether the Toronto property “was operating as a cultural centre, or as a front for Iranian governmental activities in Canada.”
The court ordered the properties sold to satisfy the terror victims’ court judgments.
“The government is committed to fighting terrorism worldwide and to holding supporters of terrorism to account,” the Global Affairs statement said.
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According to the Canadian government, Iran provides training, money and weapons to Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and at least five other terrorist groups throughout the Middle East.
The support is provided through the Quds Force, the branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps responsible for external operations and the export of Iranian ideology.
The Quds Force “provides arms, funding and paramilitary training to extremist groups,” reads the description of the group on the Public Safety Canada list of terrorist entities.
Other listed terrorist groups sponsored by Iran include:
Al-Ashtar Brigades: The Canadian government describes it as “a Shia militant group supported by Iran which aims to overthrow Bahrain’s Sunni monarchy. … AAB has claimed responsibility for several bombings targeting security forces.”
Fatemiyoun Division: A Shia militia in Syria and Afghanistan, the FD “is directed by Iran’s Qods Force, which, along with Hizballah also provides support and training,” the Canadian government says.
Harakat al-Sabireen: An “Iranian-backed Shia group which has operated in the Gaza Strip since 2014,” Harakat “calls for the destruction of Israel” and “has fired rockets into Israel,” the government says.
Harakat members claim to fight alongside Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. “Iran’s Qods Force, assisted by the Palestinian Operations department of Hezballah, has financed and provided media exposure to HaS.”
The main recipient of Iranian support is Hezbollah, the Lebanese armed group. “Its goals are the liberation of Jerusalem, the destruction of Israel, and, ultimately, the establishment of a revolutionary Shia Islamic state in Lebanon, modelled after Iran.”