Iranian dissident journalist Moradi ‘abducted’ in Turkey

The killing of Masoud Molavi Vardanjani in 2019 ‘was clearly a hostile act that was met with a response.’ (Reuters)
The killing of Masoud Molavi Vardanjani in 2019 ‘was clearly a hostile act that was met with a response.’ (Reuters)
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Updated 06 June 2022

Iranian dissident journalist Moradi ‘abducted’ in Turkey

The killing of Masoud Molavi Vardanjani in 2019 ‘was clearly a hostile act that was met with a response.’ (Reuters)
  • News of his disappearance may complicate Iranian FM’s visit to Ankara

ANKARA: The disappearance of Mohammed Bagher Moradi, an Iranian dissident journalist who took shelter in Turkey nine years ago, has fueled concerns that he is another victim of Iranian intelligence and abduction operations that have been active in the region.

Moradi, who sought asylum in Turkey after fleeing Iran during a trial over his critical news coverage, disappeared on May 30. His 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.




Mohammed Bagher Moradi. (Supplied photo)


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.
Yair Geller, a 75-year-old Istanbul-based tycoon who invested in machine and defense industries in Turkey, was targeted by a nine-person network that was gathered by Iran’s intelligence agency in response to the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in what Tehran claimed was an Israeli operation.
The attempt was foiled following a month-long surveillance operation by the Turkish intelligence agency.
Jason Brodsky, policy director of the group United Against a Nuclear Iran, told Arab News that the case of Moradi is just one more example of Iran’s long history of using Turkey as a launch pad to target Iranian dissidents.
However, he doesn’t think the operation itself was primarily motivated by Turkey’s warming relations with Israel.
“It is more that Iran has found a permissive environment in Turkey to operate, not to mention the geographic advantages for its security forces in being able to quickly smuggle their targets into Iranian territory,” Brodsky said.
Last week, Israel’s National Security Council issued a travel warning for Turkey, claiming there was a concrete threat to Israelis by “Iranian terrorist operatives” there and in nearby countries.
According to Brodsky, Israel’s recent travel warning for Israelis in Turkey is one more example of how infiltrated Turkey is with Iranian intelligence.
“These revelations come ahead of the Iranian foreign minister’s visit to Turkey on Monday — his first since taking office. Despite Iran’s reach inside Turkey, there are still irritants in the bilateral relationship over water, Iran-backed militias’ targeting of Turkish forces in Iraq and other issues. The news about the Moradi case will add yet another complication during the Iranian foreign minister’s visit,” he added.
In February, 16 suspects belonging to a network were arrested over their ties to Iranian intelligence in bringing back Iranian dissidents back to their homeland. The network was discovered following a detailed investigation by Turkish intelligence. They were accused of political and military espionage, as well as of abduction.
In its previous operations in Turkey, the network smuggled another Iranian dissident, former Col. Mashali Firouze, back to Iran, while its attempts to abduct former naval officer Mohammed Rezaei and economist Shahnam Golshani were botched.
Regarding the timing of the Iranian operatives’ abduction attempts in Turkey, Shahbandar said it is definitely not random.
“It is a sign of Iran’s desperation as the economy collapses and protests spread further across the country,” he said.


Spain, Morocco seek reset of testy relationship at Rabat summit

Spain, Morocco seek reset of testy relationship at Rabat summit
Updated 9 sec ago

Spain, Morocco seek reset of testy relationship at Rabat summit

Spain, Morocco seek reset of testy relationship at Rabat summit
RABAT: Spain and Morocco have agreed to set aside their differences, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Thursday, as they seek to repair a relationship marked by
frequent disputes over migration and territory.
Sanchez was speaking at a summit in Rabat where the two countries signed as many as 20 agreements to boost trade and investment, including credit lines of up to 800 million euros ($873 million).
“We have agreed on a commitment to mutual respect, whereby in our discourse and in our political practice we will avoid everything that we know offends the other party, especially regarding our respective spheres of sovereignty,” Sanchez said.
There have been regular diplomatic crises over Spain’s enclaves in Africa, Morocco’s dispute with rebels over the Western Sahara, and the arrival of thousands of illegal migrants in Spain each year through Morocco.
Morocco refuses to recognize Spanish sovereignty over Ceuta and Melilla, but last year the two countries agreed to open the first customs control points between the two.
Madrid says that reflects Rabat’s recognition of the enclaves as foreign territory, but Morocco has not confirmed the development and has given no public statement indicating that its long-held stance that the enclaves should be part of its territory has changed.
Sanchez restored cordial relations with Rabat in March 2022 after he reversed former colonial master Spain’s four-decade policy on the Western Sahara by backing Morocco’s proposal to create an autonomous region.
Forging peace between the neighbors has forced Sanchez’s Socialists into some uncomfortable positions.
Last month, its MEPs voted against a resolution in the European Parliament to call on Morocco to improve its record on press freedom. MEP Juan Fernando Lopez said this week that maintaining cordial neighborly relations sometimes involved “swallowing a toad.”
Spain’s about-turn on Western Sahara drew the ire of Algeria, a Polisario Front ally, which suspended trade with Spain and warned it could cut the flow of natural gas even as it forges closer gas ties with Italy.
In Rabat on Thursday, Moroccan Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch expressed satisfaction at Spain’s support for Morocco’s autonomy plan as the “most credible solution” to resolve the Western Sahara dispute, but did not reference an agreement to set aside all sovereignty disputes.

Turkiye slams West for security warnings ‘harming’ tourism

Turkiye slams West for security warnings ‘harming’ tourism
Updated 02 February 2023

Turkiye slams West for security warnings ‘harming’ tourism

Turkiye slams West for security warnings ‘harming’ tourism
  • The German Embassy cited the risk of possible retaliatory attacks following Quran-burning incidents in some European countries
  • The US and other countries issued travel warnings urging citizens to exercise vigilance

ANKARA: Turkiye on Thursday slammed a group of Western countries that temporarily closed down their consulates in Istanbul over security concerns, accusing them of waging “psychological warfare” and attempting to wreck Turkiye’s tourism industry.
Germany, the Netherlands and Britain were among countries that shut down their consulates in the city of around 16 million people this week. The German Embassy cited the risk of possible retaliatory attacks following Qur’an-burning incidents in some European countries. The United States and other countries issued travel warnings urging citizens to exercise vigilance.
Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said the consulate closures and travel warnings were part of a Western plot to prevent a rebound in Turkiye’s tourism sector following the coronavirus pandemic.
“On a day when we declared our aim of (attracting) 60 million tourists, at a time when 51.5 million tourists arrived and we obtained $46 billion in tourism revenue, they were on the verge of starting a new psychological warfare (against) Turkiye,” said Soylu, who is known for his anti-Western rhetoric.
The minister said Turkiye had conducted as many as 60 operations against the Daesh group so far this year and detained 95 people. Last year, close to 2,000 Daesh suspects were detained in more than 1,000 operations against the group, he said.
Earlier this week, the Interior Ministry said Turkish authorities had detained a number of suspects following a warning from a “friendly country,” but hadn’t found any weapons, ammunition or sign of a planned act of violence.
In November, a bombing on Istanbul’s bustling Istiklal Avenue, located in the heart of the city and near a number of foreign consulates, killed six people and wounded several others. Turkish authorities blamed the attack on Kurdish militants.
Last weekend, Turkiye’s foreign ministry issued a travel warning for European countries due to anti-Turkish demonstrations and what it described as Islamophobia. The warning followed demonstrations the week before outside the Turkish Embassy in Sweden, where an anti-Islam activist burned the Qur’an and pro-Kurdish groups protested against Turkiye.
In a related development, the Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned Norway’s ambassador to ask for a protest planned for Friday in the Scandinavian country to be prevented because there would be an “attack” on the Qur’an during the event, Turkiye’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported Thursday.
Norwegian newspaper VG said a group called Stop Islamization of Norway planned to burn the Qur’an outside the Turkish Embassy in Oslo on Friday.
The group’s leader, Lars Thorsen, told VG that he planned to carry out his protest “in the context of Turkiye’s intolerance of Western values of freedom.”
Recent demonstrations in Europe where activists desecrated Islam’s holy book have infuriated Muslims in Turkiye and elsewhere.
Anadolu said the Norwegian ambassador was told that the planned action would constitute a “hate crime” that should not be allowed.


Iranian film director Jafar Panahi starts hunger strike in prison — rights group

Iranian film director Jafar Panahi starts hunger strike in prison — rights group
Updated 02 February 2023

Iranian film director Jafar Panahi starts hunger strike in prison — rights group

Iranian film director Jafar Panahi starts hunger strike in prison — rights group
  • Panahi was detained in July and told he would serve a six-year prison sentence originally issued by a Tehran court in 2010
  • Panahi has won several international awards

DUBAI: Iranian film director Jafar Panahi has started a hunger strike in prison to protest against authorities’ refusal to release him temporarily on bail pending retrial, the activist HRANA news agency reported on Thursday.
Panahi was detained in July and told he would serve a six-year prison sentence originally issued by a Tehran court in 2010, amid a stepped-up crackdown on dissent in the Islamic Republic.
“According to the law, I should have been released on bail after my request for retrial was accepted but my case has been delayed for more than 100 days,” the 62-year-old film director wrote in a letter, according to HRANA.
“This is in stark contrast with the speedy trials of innocent youth which are brought to the gallows 30 days after their arrest,” added the director, who won the Cannes Film Festival’s Camera d’Or prize for his 1995 movie “White Balloon.”
There was no immediate reaction to the HRANA report from Iranian authorities on state media.
Iran’s judiciary said in July Panahi would serve a six-year sentence over charges of “propaganda against the system” and inciting opposition protests after the 2009 election that led to months of political turmoil.
Since then, nationwide protests sparked by the death in police custody of Kurdish Iranian young woman Mahsa Amini on Sept. 16 2022 have represented one of the toughest challenges to the Islamic Republic.
At least four people have been hanged since the demonstrations started, according to the judiciary. Iran has accused foreign enemies of fomenting the unrest.
Panahi has won several international awards, including the 2015 Berlin Film Festival’s Golden Bear for his film “Taxi.”


Netanyahu in Paris to press Macron on Iran

Netanyahu in Paris to press Macron on Iran
Updated 02 February 2023

Netanyahu in Paris to press Macron on Iran

Netanyahu in Paris to press Macron on Iran
  • The pair would discuss “the international effort to stop the Iranian nuclear program”
  • Israel is considering sending military aid to Ukraine

PARIS: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will hold talks with French President Emmanuel Macron Thursday, hoping to gain support against Iran’s nuclear program but shadowed by an upsurge of violence in the region.
Israel’s Paris embassy said the pair would discuss “the international effort to stop the Iranian nuclear program.”
Netanyahu hopes that Iran’s role supplying drones to Russian invaders in Ukraine as well as the crackdown on protests at home will prompt Western allies to drop any pursuit of a revival of the 2015 deal over its atomic drive.
The prime minister has also said Israel is considering sending military aid to Ukraine, apparently dropping its previously more neutral stance over the conflict.
France agrees that “firmness” is needed in dealings with Iran, a diplomatic source told AFP, calling its nuclear program “dangerous” and highlighting its role in the Ukraine war.
Tehran also holds several foreign nationals who Western governments see as political hostages.
But Macron’s office said the French leader would “reiterate (to Netanyahu) the need for all sides to avoid measures likely to feed the cycle of violence” between Israelis and Palestinians — while offering “France’s solidarity with Israel in the face of terrorism.”
Netanyahu visits as Israelis and Palestinians exchanged rockets and missiles over Gaza, the latest violent episode as the conflict intensifies.
A week ago, seven were killed in a mass shooting by a Palestinian at a synagogue in annexed east Jerusalem — one day after an Israeli raid in the West Bank killed 10 Palestinians.
In France until Saturday, Netanyahu is also set to meet French business chiefs and leaders of the country’s Jewish community, the Israeli embassy said.


Iran says IAEA stance on nuclear work “incorrect” — Mizan

Iran says IAEA stance on nuclear work “incorrect” — Mizan
Updated 02 February 2023

Iran says IAEA stance on nuclear work “incorrect” — Mizan

Iran says IAEA stance on nuclear work “incorrect” — Mizan
  • Fordow is so sensitive that the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers banned enrichment there

DUBAI: Iran’s said on Thursday that the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) latest position on Tehran’s nuclear work was not correct, according to Mizan news agency.
The UN nuclear watchdog criticized Iran on Wednesday for making an undeclared change to the interconnection between the two clusters of advanced machines enriching uranium to up to 60 percent purity, close to weapons grade, at its Fordow plant.
“The IAEA inspector’s interpretation was incorrect but he reported it to the agency ... We immediately provided the explanation to the IAEA on the same day,” Iran’s nuclear chief Mohammad Eslami said.
In a confidential report to member states seen by Reuters, the IAEA did not say how the interconnection between the two cascades of IR-6 centrifuges had been changed except that “they were interconnected in a way that was substantially different from the mode of operation declared by Iran (to the IAEA).”
Fordow is so sensitive that the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers banned enrichment there. Since the United States pulled out of the deal in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions against Iran, the Islamic Republic has breached many of the deal’s restrictions on its nuclear activities.
Talks between Tehran and world powers to revive the pact have stalled since September.