Iran accused of abducting dissident journalist in Turkey


Relatives of missing Iranian dissident journalist living in Turkey fear he might be another victim of Iranian intelligence and abduction operations that have been active in the region.

Mohammed Bagher Moradi who sought asylum in Turkey nine years ago after fleeing Iran during a trial over his critical news coverage, has disappeared on 30 May.

Moradi’s father believes his son was abducted by Iranian operatives since he had been followed by Iranian intelligence for a while in capital Ankara. His family filed a criminal complaint with the local Turkish prosecutor’s office.

In 2013, Moradi, a member of Saraye Ahl-e Ghalam (Writer’s Association), was given a five-year prison sentence term on the charge of “illegal gathering and collusion against national security.”

For Iranian dissidents, Turkey has become a safe haven or a transit point to reach European countries if their legal status remains unclear.

The reciprocal visa-free travel regime between Iran and Turkey provides Iranians with the chance to stay and move freely for up to 90 days in Turkey.

However, this has not gone unnoticed by Iranian intelligence operatives who established espionage networks in the country to kidnap or assassinate dissidents despite the bilateral commitments between the two countries to cooperate against human trafficking and terrorism.

Oubai Shahbandar, a defense and security analyst, thinks it’s clear that Iranian intelligence operatives are still carrying out terror and kidnap operations that target Turkey.

“The assassination of (the dissident) Masoud Molavi Vardanjani in the middle of a busy street in Istanbul in 2019 was clearly a hostile act that was met with a response. That the Iranians are still carrying out brazen attacks shows how little Tehran cares for international norms and respect for sovereignty,” he told Arab News.

Turkish authorities arrested several suspects over their links to Vardanjani, who was a former intelligence operative for Iran. This included a staff member of the Iranian Consulate in Istanbul named Mohammed Reza Naserzade, who was held in February 2021, but Tehran denied any involvement with the murder.

Before he was shot dead in Istanbul, the Iranian dissident began sharing bombshell social media posts on the corruption of Iranian officials.

Last year, a high-ranking pilot from the Iranian army who took shelter in Turkey in 2018 filed a complaint with Turkish authorities claiming that some people tried to abduct him and his spouse several times in a bid to deliver him to Iranian intelligence. Eight people were arrested in September 2021 in connection with the incident.

Earlier this year, Turkish intelligence thwarted another plot by Iranian operatives to kill an Israeli-Turkish businessperson on Iran’s orders.

The attempt was foiled following a month-long surveillance operation by the Turkish intelligence agency. (Source: Arab News)