Argentinian justice on Monday ordered the retention “for a period of 72 hours” additional passports of these Iranians, currently housed in a hotel.

The Boeing 747, which arrived from Mexico in Cordoba (Argentina) on June 6 and carrying auto parts, belongs to Emtrasur, a subsidiary of the Venezuelan public airline Conviasa, subject to American sanctions.

The aircraft, once owned by the Iranian company Mahan Air subject to US sanctions since 2011, has been immobilized since Wednesday at Ezeiza airport in Buenos Aires, after trying in vain to travel to Uruguay. The crew also included 14 Venezuelans, left free to leave.

After landing in Argentina, “information was received from foreign organizations which warned about the membership of part of the crew in companies linked to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards”, explained on Monday the Argentine Security Minister Anibal Fernandez.

The Revolutionary Guards, ideological army of the Islamic Republic, is on the blacklist of “foreign terrorist organizations” of Washington which accuses Mahan Air, the main Iranian private airline, of alleged material and technical support to the Al-Quds Force , their elite unit in charge of external operations.

Routine checks in Argentina also detected “things that were not logical. They had declared a smaller crew than the one who traveled and this led to an investigation (…) which is continuing”, according to Ms. Fernandez.

Argentinian immigration sources had said over the weekend that the seized passports could be recovered and the crew could leave the country on a scheduled flight. But in the meantime, the Delegation of Argentine Jewish Associations (DAIA) has taken legal action, claiming an “interest in the investigation” on behalf of the country’s Jewish community.

– “Reasonable suspicion” –

The justice granted the request and withheld the passports for another 72 hours, also validating the immobilization of the device in the name of a “reasonable suspicion that the reason given for entering (Argentina) may not be the real one”.

Argentina still considers the presence on board planes on its soil of Iranian travelers sensitive, due to red alerts from Interpol against Iranians accused of being linked to the 1994 bombing against the Argentinian Israelite Mutual Association of Buenos Aires, which had caused 85 deaths and 300 injuries.

Mr. Fernandez clarified that no alert from Interpol targeted the Iranian crew members in question.

But the crew list includes Gholamreza Ghasemi, “a relative of the Iranian interior minister, and his name coincides with that of a member of the Revolutionary Guards and administrator of a company linked to Al-Quds”, stressed Mr. Fernandez. An analysis is in progress.

Paraguay had warned of the presence of the plane in the area, said its interior minister, Federico Gonzalez: “the other intelligence services in the region have been notified and, consequently, Argentina and other countries have taken action”.

According to Mr. Gonzalez, the plane had arrived on May 13 in Paraguay to load a shipment of cigarettes destined for the Caribbean island of Aruba and then left on May 16.

– Propaganda –

The aircraft was immobilized a few days before a visit to Iran by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, during which the two countries signed a 20-year cooperation agreement on Saturday to strengthen their alliance against the United States.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry on Monday denounced a “propaganda operation” against Tehran, in a context of tension between Iran and the West on nuclear power.

“The last few weeks are full of propaganda, psychological operations, war of words to provoke a feeling of insecurity (in Iran) and this case is part of this,” said ministry spokesman Said Khatibzade. . According to him, the plane was sold last year by Mahan Air to a Venezuelan company.

Talks launched more than a year ago in Vienna to bring the United States back to the 2015 nuclear deal have stalled since March. On Monday, Iran declared the measures reversing the commitments made under this agreement “reversible”, a few days after announcing the disconnection of certain UN surveillance cameras on its nuclear sites.