LONDON: At least seven dissidents have been deported from Turkey to Iran since 2017 as the two countries bolstered relations.
A further five are detained in Turkey and awaiting deportation, The Times reported.
Turkey was once seen as a prime destination for Iranian visitors and a relatively safe place where those who fell foul of the regime could flee.
However, increasingly close ties between Ankara and Tehran, and Iran’s growing use of the death penalty against activists have made exiled Iranians fearful they could be forcibly sent home.
Last week, Iran’s supreme court upheld death sentences for Saeed Tamjidi, 28, Mohammad Rajabi, 26, and Amirhossein Moradi, 26, for taking part in widespread protests in November.
After initially being arrested and released, Tamjidi and Rajabi fled to Turkey to seek asylum. But instead of being taken in, the pair were deported back to Iran in December as part of a group of 33 Iranians.
Once back in prison in Tehran, they were kicked, hung upside down and repeatedly beaten, according to Amnesty International.
Along with Moradi, they were convicted in February of leading riots, committing robbery and sending video of their activities to foreign media.
Among those awaiting deportation from Turkey to Iran is Abdollah Bozorgzadeh, an activist from Iran’s Baloch minority who arrived in Turkey last year. He was arrested last month in Ankara after he was sentenced in absentia to 11 years in prison.
“The Turkish intelligence has made false accusations against me, claiming that I am a threat to Turkey’s national security even though all my activities are related to the rights of Baloch people and criticism of the dictatorship of the Islamic republic of Iran,” Bozorgzadeh told The Times. “If I am deported back to Iran, I am facing long-term imprisonment, torture and execution.”
Turkey and Iran have improved relations since 2017 as they started to work together with Russia on a process to end the Syria conflict.
The two countries have also in recent months increased security cooperation against Kurdish groups.