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Dissident Iranian journalist who disappeared in Turkey deported to Iran

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Mohammad Bagher Moradi, a dissident Iranian journalist who disappeared in Ankara in May, is now in the custody of Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported on Wednesday, citing Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Moradi was deported to Iran in early November after being kept in “illegal” detention in Turkey for five months, the Turkish lawyer representing his family, Salih Efe, told RFE/RL.

Moradi, who sought asylum in Turkey after fleeing Iran over his critical news coverage, disappeared on May 30 in Ankara. The next day, his car was found abandoned near his residence, according to Turkish media reports.

In 2013 Moradi, a member of Saraye Ahl-e Ghalam (Writer’s Association), was sentenced to five years in prison on a conviction of collusion against the state, prompting him to flee to Turkey

Moradi’s family, who were visiting from Tehran, had filed a criminal complaint over their son’s disappearance and told the local prosecutor’s office that they suspected he had been abducted, RFE/RL reported, citing local media.

Despite the launch of a formal investigation, Moradi was not found.

Following months of silence, Moradi on November 4 made a brief telephone call to his family and informed them that he was in Iran in the custody of the “intelligence bodies,” sources with knowledge of the case told RFE/RL. Moradi told his family that he was moved to Iran just days prior to his call, the sources said, adding that the journalist has since made two other calls to his family.

The sources said Moradi was being held by the feared intelligence branch of the IRGC, which has been behind the arrest of scores of journalists, activists, environmentalists and dual nationals in recent years.

Last week Moradi’s father was questioned by the IRGC about his son’s activities in Turkey, the sources said. They added that the IRGC told him to advise his son to make a live television confession.

Moradi had told his family that he had been kidnapped by Turkish intelligence officers and kept in an unknown location until his deportation. Moradi had been interrogated and tortured during his detention in Turkey, RFE/RL reported, citing Moradi’s lawyer Efe.

The Iranian government has been targeting dissidents in Turkey for a long time. According to The New York Times, Iranian authorities have been intimidating and targeting Iranian asylum seekers in Turkey.

A number of Iranian dissidents have been lured to Turkey only to be abducted and forcibly repatriated to Iran, while others have been extradited by Turkish authorities. One activist, Arsalan Rezaei, was stabbed to death in İstanbul in December 2020 after receiving several threats from agents of the Iranian government.

In a joint letter in August 2020, UN rapporteurs implicitly accused Turkey of allowing Iranian intelligence to perpetrate or orchestrate extrajudicial killings in Turkish territory and of allowing an Iranian who reportedly played a key role in the assassination of Masoud Molavi Vardanjani in İstanbul to escape to Iran.

In an interview with Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF), transnational repression expert Dr. Edward Lemon said Turkey was becoming an important site for transnational repression by authoritarian regimes. He said the Turkish government wanted to have positive relationships with authoritarian regimes and play a bridging role between the West and states like China and Russia. As a result it responds to their requests to detain and deport government critics.

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