Swedish citizen Habib Chaab was lured into Turkey, kidnapped, and smuggled across the border to face public execution in Iran.
An investigative report by Sky News suggests that a Swedish-Iranian opposition activist, Habib Chaab, was recently kidnapped and smuggled back into Iran.
After being arrested in Iran as an opposition dissident, Chaab now faces public execution. His friends and family are calling on the European Union and others in the international community to intervene on Chaab’s behalf.
Sky News was given access to Turkish counter-terrorism files which described in detail how Chaab was first lured into the trap, then drugged and smuggled against his will into Iran.
Habib Chaab had traveled from his home in Sweden to Turkey in October, alone, after being targeted by a female spy who lured him to Istanbul. Chaab disappeared soon after his arrival in Istanbul.
Turkish surveillance footage showed those accused of the kidnapping meeting in Istanbul and buying cable ties. The footage also showed Mr. Chaab’s arrival at the airport and his visit to a petrol station where he was to meet the alleged spy. Turkish investigators say Chaab was subsequently drugged, taken to the border of Iran and smuggled across.
Two days after the disappearance of Habib Chaab in Turkey, Iran’s state media reported that he had been arrested and had confessed to his involvement in a deadly attack on a military parade two years ago in Iran. The “report did not elaborate on when or where he was arrested.”
Tehran is accusing Chaab of being a leading figure in the Arab separatist group known as the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz, which has been designated a terrorist organization by Iran. The group has fought for the independence of Iran’s ethnic Arab minority.
After his disappearance in October, a video of Chaab was broadcast on Iranian state television in November. In the video, Chaab confessed to armed robbery and to working with Saudi intelligence services. He also claimed responsibility for an attack on a military parade in the city of Ahvaz that caused the deaths of at least 29 people.
Confession videos such as these are common in Iran, and are often condemned by human rights groups as forced confessions or confessions extracted from suspects by torture.
On Sunday, UN Watch tweeted, “The Islamic Republic of Iran lures dissident Habib Chaab into Turkey, kidnaps him & brings him back to Iran to face public execution on baseless charges. The Islamic Republic of Iran is an elected member of the U.N. Commission on Criminal Justice.”
Erik Karlsson, a spokesman for Sweden’s foreign ministry said its diplomats had still not been given consular access to Chaab, who is a citizen of Sweden.
“Immediately when we learned of the reports we investigated through our foreign missions in Turkey and Iran. The case has also been raised with Turkey’s and Iran’s ambassadors to Stockholm,” Karlsson told AFP.
An official from the office of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan released a statement to Sky News: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this illegal operation by the Iranian intelligence.”
“The Turkish intelligence identified the individuals responsible for Mr. Chaab’s abduction within days and they have since been brought to justice. We are confident that Turkey’s court system will punish them to the full extent of our laws.”
Turkish intelligence officers and police have in fact detained 11 men, who have been accused of “using weapons . . . to deprive an individual of their liberty through deceit,” a Turkish official told the Washington Post.
Chaab is only the latest individual Iran has been accused of using operatives to lure into locations where they can be kidnapped or killed. Other exiled and dissident Iranian journalists living abroad have reported similar such efforts, seemingly designed to lure them into areas from which they can be more easily extracted.
Dissident journalist and blogger Ruhollah Zam was executed in Iran on December 12, 2020, after an illegal extraction nearly identical to the one which ensnared Habib Chaab.
Zam’s wife says he was living in exile in France but was persuaded to travel to Iraq where he was abducted, taken to Iran and put on television to confess his “crimes” in October of 2019.
Zam was later tried and convicted on charges of “corruption on earth”. Amad News, an online political opposition news site formerly run by Ruhollah Zam, has been accused by Iranian authorities of inciting violence during protests in 2017 and 2018.
Reporters Without Borders, a group advocating for freedom of information and human rights worldwide, campaigned unsuccessfully for Zam’s release. Reporters Without Borders lists Iran as one of the world’s most repressive countries. According the group, almost 1,000 journalists have been jailed or executed in Iran since Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini overthrew the monarchy of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in 1979.
(Contributing journalist, Allegra Nokaj) (Contributing writer, Brooke Bell)