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ANKARA: The disappearance of Mohammed Bagher Moradi, an Iranian dissident journalist who fled to Turkey nine years ago, has fueled concerns that he is another victim of Iran’s intelligence and kidnapping operations that have been active In the region.

Moradi, who sought asylum in Turkey after fleeing Iran while on trial for his critical media coverage, disappeared on May 30. His father believes his son has been abducted by Iranian agents since he was tracked by Iranian intelligence services for some time in the 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 (Writers’ Association), was sentenced to five years in prison for “illegal assembly and collusion against national security”.
For Iranian dissidents, Turkey has become a refuge or a transit point to reach European countries if their legal status remains unclear.
The reciprocal visa-free travel regime between Iran and Turkey offers Iranians the opportunity to stay and move freely in Turkey for up to 90 days.
However, this has not gone unnoticed by Iranian intelligence agents who have established spy rings in the country to kidnap or assassinate dissidents despite 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 continue to carry out terror and kidnapping operations that target Turkey.
“The assassination of (dissident) Masoud Molavi Vardanjani in the middle of a busy Istanbul street in 2019 was clearly a hostile act that met with a response. The fact that the Iranians continue to carry out brazen attacks shows how Tehran cares little for international norms and respect for sovereignty,” he told Arab News.
Turkish authorities have arrested several suspects for their ties to Vardanjani, who was a former intelligence agent for Iran. This included a staff member from the Iranian consulate in Istanbul named Mohammed Reza Naserzade, who was detained in February 2021, but Tehran has denied any involvement in the murder.
Before being shot in Istanbul, the Iranian dissident began sharing explosive messages on social media about the corruption of Iranian officials.
Last year, a high-ranking Iranian military pilot who fled to Turkey in 2018 filed a complaint with Turkish authorities claiming that some people had tried to abduct him and his wife on several occasions in the purpose of handing him over to the Iranian intelligence services. Eight people were arrested in September 2021 in connection with the incident.
Earlier this year, Turkish intelligence services foiled another plot by Iranian agents to kill a Turkish-Israeli businessman on orders from Iran.
Yair Geller, a 75-year-old Istanbul-based tycoon who has invested in Turkey’s machinery and defense industries, was targeted by a nine-person network that was assembled 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 after a month-long surveillance operation by the Turkish intelligence agency.
Jason Brodsky, political director of the group United Against a Nuclear Iran, told Arab News that Moradi’s case is just one more example of Iran’s long history of using Turkey as a launching pad to target Iranian dissidents.
However, he does not believe that the operation itself was primarily motivated by the warming of relations between Turkey and Israel.
“It’s more that Iran has found a permissive environment in Turkey to operate in, not to mention the geographical advantages for its security forces of 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, saying there was a concrete threat to Israelis from “Iranian terrorists” there and in neighboring countries.
According to Brodsky, Israel’s recent travel warning for Israelis in Turkey is another example of how Turkey is being infiltrated by 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 bilateral relations over water, the targeting of Turkish forces by Iran-backed militias in Iraq and other issues. The news of the Moradi affair will add yet another complication to the visit of the Iranian foreign minister,” he added.
In February, 16 suspects belonging to a network were arrested because of their links with the Iranian intelligence services for bringing Iranian dissidents back to their country of origin. The network was discovered following a detailed investigation by the Turkish intelligence services. They were charged with political and military espionage, as well as kidnapping.
In its previous operations in Turkey, the network smuggled another Iranian dissident, former Colonel Mashali Firouze, back to Iran, while its attempts to kidnap former naval officer Mohammed Rezaei and economist Shahnam Golshani were sloppy.
As for the timing of the attempted kidnappings by Iranian agents in Turkey, Shahbandar said it was certainly not random.
“It’s a sign of Iran’s desperation as the economy collapses and protests spread across the country,” he said.

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