Turkish intelligence arrests 11 for involvement in Iran’s kidnap of Ahwazi dissident

Dec 14, 2020

The Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT) has reportedly detained 11 people suspected of collusion with Iran’s regime following investigations into the abduction of an Ahawzi dissident, Habib Chaab, by criminals working on behalf of Iran’s regime.

According to the Turkish Daily Sabah newspaper, the eleven men detained are all members of a drug-smuggling network run by a well-known Iranian criminal Naji Sharifi Zindashti; they were arrested following a lengthy and still ongoing police investigation into the abduction of Chaab, who was smuggled back to Iran where there are fears he will be executed.

Chaab, also known as Habib Asyud, is a prominent Ahwazi dissident and rights activist who had been living in exile in Sweden for 14 years; he arrived in Istanbul on October 9 on a visit to meet with family members. According to police sources cited by the Daily Sabah, during a meeting with his former wife, named only as Saberin S., they stopped at a gas station in the city’s Beylikdüzü district where he was bundled into a van by assailants who drugged him and drove him to the eastern province of Van on the Turkish-Iranian border before he was handed over to Iranian forces.

Chaab had been on the Iranian intelligence service’s radar for some time for his defence of the rights of the brutally oppressed Ahwazi Arab minority in southwest Iran, heading the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz (ASMLA). He was the second senior ASMLA official in exile to be targeted by Iran’s regime in recent years; the group’s founder, Ahmad Mola Nissi, was shot dead at point-blank range in front of his home in the Hague in the Netherlands in November 2017. Although Nissi’s killer has never been caught, the professional assassination-style killing followed years of death threats and a pattern of regime assassinations and targeting of dissidents.

Since being abducted and taken back to Iran, Chaab has been imprisoned, with his family reportedly receiving notification from regime officials that the regime intends to publicly execute him. His only appearance has been in one of the regime’s notorious “confession” videos broadcast on state TV, in which he read a clearly scripted ‘confession’ believed to have been obtained under torture, in which he 'confessed' to a range of charges, including collusion with Saudi Arabia, Israel and the USA.

All 11 of the accused collaborators, identified as Turkish nationals, were detained by Turkish police and face charges including “using weapons ... to deprive an individual of their liberty through deceit.”

The man accused of heading the kidnapping on behalf of Iran’s regime, Naji Sharifi Zindashti, who is still at large, reportedly fled to Turkey in 2007 after Iran sentenced him to death in a drug smuggling case that year. Despite being charged with a slew of crimes by the regime in Tehran, including drug trafficking, the establishment of an armed criminal organization, kidnapping and homicide with life imprisonment terms in addition to his death penalty, he appears to have struck a deal with the regime to work with them in exchange for dropping the charges, returning to Iran in 2018.