Ahmadinejad's cameraman seeks asylum in US

Hassan Gol Khanban defected while accompanying the Iranian president to the U.N. General Assembly

By Associated Press

Published October 1, 2012 4:50PM (EDT)

An Iranian cameraman in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s entourage who defected in New York was hiding out in an “undisclosed location” Monday and has already applied for asylum, his lawyer said.

Hassan Gol Khanban put in the paperwork after the Iranian delegation, which was in the city for the United Nations General Assembly, left Thursday “and he didn’t.”

“The regime wanted him to do things that he didn’t want to do,” attorney Paul O’Dwyer said. “He was concerned that he would be perceived as not being a full supporter of the regime and that he would be targeted and punished as a result.”

O’Dwyer did not divulge how Gol Khanban ran afoul of his masters, but said he was the “longtime cameraman” for Ahmadinejad, Iran’s notorious leader.

“We know fairly well when the Iranian regime is going to punish you, that means anything from being tortured or killed to having you family disappeared,” said O’Dwyer, who is based in lower Manhattan. “He does have a family, but they have left Iran also. We’re hoping to get them here.”

O’Dwyer would not say where Gol Khanban’s wife and two children were hiding. He said the defector is in his 40s.

Ahmadinejad addressed the assembly on Wednesday, delivering yet another anti-Israel, anti-U.S. diatribe in a hall that many diplomats walked out of just before he began yammering.

The next day, Ahmadinejad and the 140-strong delegation departed from the posh Warwick Hotel in midtown. They split after members of his entourage loaded up shampoo, shoes, soap, vitamins and other items in short supply at home because of the economic sanctions the West has imposed on Iran to curb their nuclear ambitions.

The Iranian consulate has not yet weighed in on Gol Khanban’s defection.

O’Dwyer said he has not heard from the Iranians, either.

Legally, Gol Khanban’s asylum application is supposed to be decided within 180 days of it being filed, his lawyer said.

“But it’s hard to put a timeline on a significant case like this,” said O’Dwyer.

In the meantime, Gol Khanban can legally stay in the U.S.

But he’ll be watching is back.

“The Iranian regime is ruthless,” said O’Dwyer. “They’re obviously not happy about this.”


Watch Ahmadinejad's U.N. address, via PBS News Hour's YouTube channel:

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Asylum Cameraman Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad United Nations