Turkish media have published more details about the kidnapping of Habib Assoud, also known as Farjolah Chab, a former leader of the Al-Ahwaz Liberation Movement. Outlets cited a statement by the Turkish intelligence service regarding his abduction and his transfer to Iran and named Naji Sharifi Zindashti as the director of operations in Turkey. Some Turkish media outlets also reported that the killers of Masoud Molavi Vardanjanii and Saeed Karimian, who were both murdered in Istanbul, in 2019 and 2017 respectively, were also close to Zindashti.
Following the abduction of Farjolah Chab, nicknamed Habib Assoud, a former leader of the Al-Ahwaz Liberation Movement, the National Intelligence Organization of Turkey (MIT) announced that 13 Turkish citizens had so far been arrested on suspicion of spying for the Iranian government.
Turkish media reported that the group of kidnappers was led by a well-known drug trafficker named Naji Sharifi Zindashti.
On December 13, The Washington Post quoted a United States official who said that Habib Assoud had been abducted. The report stated that Assoud had been enticed by a woman named Saberin S., an intelligence agent for the Islamic Republic, to travel to Turkey from Sweden, and the drug trafficker, Naji Sharifi Zindashti, was responsible for transferring him to Iran.
Who is Naji Sharifi Zindashti?
According to various reports in the Turkish media, Naji Sharifi Zindashti is the leader of a drug cartel who was sentenced to death in a smuggling case in Iran about 13 years ago and who then fled to Turkey. The reports say Zindashti was also sentenced to life in prison in Turkey approximately two years ago in connection with several crimes, including drug trafficking, forming an armed criminal group, kidnapping, and murder. However, he remained in prison for only six months and was then released. According to the Khabar Turk newspaper, the judge who ordered Zindashti's release, known only as Judge G.O., said in the course of a recent investigation that the verdict followed pressure from Burhan Kozu, then a member of the Turkish parliament. Burhan Kozu died of Covid-19 earlier this year.
Turkish media have reported that Zindashti is currently in Iran.
The Turkish media, citing a statement from the country's intelligence service, published a separate report on the abduction, which went into more detail regarding various aspects.
Anatolia News Agency reported on Monday, December 14: “Thirteen people are still in custody and two suspects have been temporarily released" regarding the case of the Farjolah Chab’s abduction in Turkey and his transfer to Iran by the Zindashti gang.
"Zindashti's brother played an active role in the operation to kidnap Farjolah Chab and his travel to Iran in August," the news agency quoted security sources as saying. "In Iran, he, along with Naji Sharif Zindashti and his partner, Nihat Ashan, had several meetings in Tehran and Urmia with intelligence agents. The focus of these meetings was Farajolah Chab, and finally a meeting was arranged between Saberin S. and Chab in Istanbul."
According to the news agency, Zindashti's brother-in-law arrived in Turkey on October 7 to form a group to carry out the operation. A day later, Saberin S. arrived in Istanbul with a fake passport. Chab also traveled by air to Istanbul that night and went to the Bilik Dozou area, where he had a meeting with Saberin, and then ended up in a van.
"Chab was then anesthetized in the minibus, and was handed over to the smugglers," the news agency continued. "After tying his hands and feet, they took him to a house in the city of Van on October 10 and then transferred him to Iran illegally. Saberin returned to Iran illegally on the same day."
The Turkish daily Khabar Turk also cited a report by the Turkish Intelligence Service (MIT) that Saberin S. was Chab's "ex-wife" and wrote that Zindashti "enticed Chab, who had been living in Sweden for the last 14 years, using his ex-wife and dragged him to Istanbul. He was then anesthetized in a minibus at a gas station in the Bilik Dozou neighborhood, and after being transferred to Van, he was taken to Iran."
The newspaper also reported that Chab's ex-wife took him from Sweden to Istanbul with the promise of lending him 100,000 euros.
"We are talking about an important operation," the daily Hurriyet quoted Turkish CNN news agency as saying. "Opposition Iranian figures and people living abroad are permanently abducted and transferred to Iran, where they are executed. An important operation has now been carried out by MIT [Turkish intelligence] and the suspects have been identified and arrested. In recent days, the Turkish intelligence service has launched a large-scale operation after Habib Assoud, an Iranian opposition figure living in Sweden, was abducted in Turkey and transferred to Iran. According to intelligence investigations, the kidnappers were led by Zindashti, a fugitive prisoner, who transferred him to Iran after the abduction. In this regard, 11 members of this group of detainees have been detained."
Sabah newspaper also published a report about the incident. In addition to mentioning the full name of the woman as well as the name of Zindashti's brother-in-law, it also mentioned the exact times.
Referring to the operations of the Turkish security forces in three provinces of the country, the Sabah article says: "Zindashti's brother-in-law, Bakhtiar F., together with Nihat Ashan, carried out the kidnapping plan. Habib Farjolah Chab arrived in Istanbul from Sweden on October 9 to meet with Iranian intelligence officer Saberin Saeidi. He got in the passport control line at 18:30 and went through passport control at 18:47. At 18:49, he collected his luggage from the baggage claim and left the passport area at 18:51. He entered a telephone shop at 19:18 and left the store at 22:00 and stood in a taxi queue." Minutes later, the Sabah report said, he left the airport. It added that Chab had a return ticket booked from Istanbul to Sweden but did not board the plane on the scheduled date.
Sabah further writes about the manner in which Chab was abducted: "Three of the suspects, namely Bakhtiar.F., F.D, and F.F., entered a store in Esenyurt on October 9, and bought plastic bracelets and cloth handkerchiefs. After seeing Chab and Saberin at the gas station, they anesthetized Chab in a minibus and took him to Van. He was then transferred to Iran illegally and handed over to intelligence agents."
The newspaper also refers to the murder of two other Iranians in Turkey in its report and wrote that the killers of the two were also in the group of Farajolah Chab's kidnapping operation.
Saeed Karimian, director of GEM TV, was shot dead by unknown individuals in Istanbul three years ago. Massoud Molavi, a critic of the Islamic Republic and director of the Black Box Telegram channel, was also killed in Istanbul last year.
According to the Sabah newspaper, the suspect in Karimian's murder is in fact Zindashti's driver and bodyguard, and is called Ali. The assailant of Massoud Molavi, is also the brother of Ali K. who is Zindashti's gardener.