Variously Portrayed as Translator, No. 2 at Embassy : Mysterious Iranian at Center of Crisis
While a dangerous international quarrel boils up around him, Wahid Gordji has been sitting in the Iranian Embassy behind a wall of speculation.
To hear his colleagues tell it, the young Iranian official was a translator for diplomatic contacts in Paris. But Gordji is variously portrayed by others as the No. 2 man at the embassy, an adept businessman and a link to Iran’s secret service and groups attracted to Iran’s Islamic revolutionary government.
Whichever version is true, the drama surrounding Gordji already has gone beyond his own fate. It has shattered Premier Jacques Chirac’s policy of cultivating better relations with Iran--apparently initiated by a desire to obtain freedom for French hostages in Lebanon--and helped propel France and Iran into a tense standoff.
Known About Town
Gordji, believed to be 27 years old, has been summoned for questioning by French officials in connection with terrorist bombings in Paris last fall.
French officials say publicly that Gordji is wanted only as a witness, but press reports speculate that he could be a suspect. Said Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, the former president in exile in France: “Mr. Gordji was engaged (by the embassy) for dirty work, arms sales, hostage negotiations, discussions about the situation of the (Iranian) opposition which has taken refuge in France.”
He has become a subject of special fascination in France because he was widely known here before the crisis. As an affable French speaker and Francophile, he was a frequent guest at diplomatic receptions and a prized contact for French officials carrying out Chirac’s policy of reconciliation.
Although he was born in Iran, Gordji came to France in the early 1970s. His father, a doctor, was an aide to the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini during his exile here. Gordji’s father, as well as his wife and children, returned to Tehran as the diplomatic war heated up.
In the past, Gordji had been seen in the street trying to break up demonstrations by anti-Khomeini Iranians in Paris. But he was most visible at the side of Deputy Prime Minister Alireza Moayeri when Chirac received Moayeri in May, 1986, to inaugurate the attempts at normalization.
Ties to Terrorist Alleged
Then, in March and April, police announced they had broken up two terrorist networks believed connected to the September bombings that killed 11 people and injured more than 150. One of the networks allegedly included Mohammed Mouhajer, a Lebanese. French press reports, citing police sources, say Gordji was in close contact with Mouhajer, who has been charged with complicity in bombings.
According to press accounts, some of the evidence includes a German-made car bought by Mouhajer that was seen in Gordji’s garage and wiretaps recording talks between the two men.
A summons was issued for Gordji to be heard as a witness, but police trying to serve it on June 3 found only an empty apartment.
Almost a month later, the Iranian charge d’affaires, Gholamreza Haddadi, staged an unusual news conference inside the embassy. With Gordji dramatically reappearing at his side as a translator, Haddadi said a French Foreign Ministry official had told Gordji he was being sought for questioning and advised him to remain at the embassy “until calm returns.”