Iran drugged opposition leader Habib Chaab in Istanbul where he was then smuggled back to Iran, the American Washington Post newspaper quoted a Turkish intelligence official as saying.
Chaab, a well-known activist also called Habib Asyud, is the leader of an Iranian Arab activist and separatist group.
Picked up in Istanbul, he was then transported by truck from Turkey to Iran by a smuggling ring, the Turkish official said.
The Turkish official rsaid that Iranian intelligence kidnapped Chaab after entering Istanbul on October 9, to meet with a woman named Saberin S., who works for the Iranian intelligence.
Turkish investigations found that Saberin arrived a day before Chaab from Iran with a forged Iranian passport.
According to the information, before Chaab’s arrival, several kidnapping team members bought plastic wires from a computer store in Istanbul. When Chaab landed that evening, he met Saberin at a gas station in Beylikduzu, Istanbul, which was waiting for him in a truck.
According to the Turkish intelligence official, upon his arrival at the scene, he was drugged and his hands and feet tied.
The report stated that Chaab, the leader of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz (ASMLA) was transferred to Van province in eastern Turkey and was handed over to a human and brought across the border the next day. Saberin also returned to Iran.
ASMLA is a separatist group that advocates for the independence of Iran’s ethnic Arab minority. While most live in the oil-rich southwest province, they have been neglected by Iran, a state which summarily discriminates against and mistreats its minority communities.
The security official said that Turkish intelligence and police officers arrested 11 men, all Turkish citizens, for their involvement in similar cases and brought them to trial on charges that include “the use of weapons, kidnapping, and deception.”
The Washington Post reported that this kidnapping is similar to another operation carried out by Iran recently against journalist Ruhollah Zam who was residing in France but disappeared after being lured to Iraq last year. Tehran executed Zam on Saturday.
It also referred to the assassination of another Iranian journalist in Istanbul in 2017, Masoud Molavi Vardanjani, in an operation that Turkish officials said was carried out under the supervision of intelligence officers working in the Iranian consulate there, according to Reuters.
Chaab’s colleagues told the Washington Post that they had already suspected that the woman, identified as Saberin, played a role in his abduction.
A person named Kabi said he knew her by a different name and that she and Chaab, who was separated from his wife, were “secretly married” four years ago. Also, Chaab was mired in debt, and the woman had loaned him about 100,000 euros in the past, according to Kabi.
After Chaab disappeared, Kabi and his other friends learned that the woman offered him another loan. The initial plan was for the two to meet in Qatar. He added, “We do not know how she convinced him to go to Turkey.”
Iranian television had broadcast what it described as the “confessions” of the former head of the ASMLA Habib Faraj Allah Chaab, three weeks after his arrest. At the same time, human rights organizations condemned what they described as the repetition of forced confessions, which are taken under torture by political detainees.
Chaab was shown admitting that he and his peers worked for foreign intelligence services and carried out military operations and bombings. He also self-incriminated himself over his alleged involvement in a deadly attack on the annual Iranian military parade September 22, 2018, in the city of Ahwaz. In 2018 ISIS and ASMLA claimed responsibility for the attack.
Iran has stepped up its interference in recent years, assassinating many opponents on European soil and elsewhere, and has also adopted the method of kidnapping some opponents abroad, including journalist Zam and activist Jamshid Sharmhad.