Three senior Iranian officials and a Panamanian lawyer today presented the Foreign Ministry here with a 450-page petition for the extradition of the deposed shah of Iran nearly 24 hours after he had left exile on Contador Island here for Egypt.
"We are going ahead with the petition so the deposed shah can never come back to Panama," said Juan Materno Vazquez, an attorney and former Panamanian justice minister.
"Since Iran made the first request, it had 60 days in which to present the formal petition," Materno Vazques said, "and today is the last day. If we don't do it today, he could come back tomorrow and live in Panama the rest of his life without any problems."
Materno Vazquez said Iranian Foreign Minster Sadegh Ghotbzadeh telephoned him from Tehran this morning and instructed him to go ahead with the petition.
"The foreign minister also asked me to express Iran's amazement that the deposed shah was never arrested, as Panamanian law requires [after the initial request] and as Iran requested many times, and also that the ex-shah was allowed to leave Panama while the extradition procedure was going on."
The petition gave the shah's date of birth in the Moslem manner, "The Year of the Sun 1928." It said he has no profession and accused him of a long list of crimes.
The presentation of the petition was a bizarre scene, with Materno Vazquez arriving 45 minutes late for his appointment with Panamanian Deputy Foreign Minister, Juan Castulovich.
Castulovich had left a few minutes before Materno Vazquez arrived, saying he could not wait any longer because he had another appointment.
Followed by a crowd of reporters, Materno Vazquez searched the Foreign Ministry building before he could find anyone of sufficient rank to accept the petition.
He accused Castulovich of "unprecedented rudeness, unforgivable bad manners" in not being there to receive him.
Asked by reporters if the confusion was not caused in part to his late arrival, Materno Vazquez sharply replied, "This is Panama, and in Panama we all know everyone arrives late."
He demanded that officials find someone to receive him and the petition because he was "a former government minister, a respected member of the legal community and a taxpaying citizen of this country."
Finally he was allowed into the office of the general secretary, Analida Lopez, where he presented her with the extradition petition.
Under Panamanian law, extradition is decided exclusively by the executive branch, without going to the courts.