November 12, 2020
Iran’s state television aired a short video on Wednesday in which a Sweden-based Iranian Arab opposition figure that Tehran said it recently detained abroad appeared to confess to involvement in terrorist attacks.
An Iranian lawmaker said earlier this month that Iranian intelligence agents captured Habib Chaab – also known as Habib Eseywed – abroad and took him to the capital Tehran.
Iran has not revealed the location of Chaab’s arrest, but the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz (ASMLA), an Iranian Arab separatist group previously headed by Chaab, has accused the Iranian regime of abducting him after “luring” him to Turkey.
In the video, Chaab was shown confessing to involvement in terrorist attacks and armed robberies in Ahwaz, as well as cooperation with foreign intelligence services.
Iran’s state broadcaster IRIB has a long history of airing purported confessions that activists and rights groups say are obtained through threats and torture.
The International Federation for Human Rights and London-based Justice for Iran said in a report in June that IRIB has aired the forced confessions of at least 355 individuals and defamatory content against at least 505 others between 2009 and 2019.
Chaab was also shown saying that ASMLA was responsible for an attack on a military parade in Ahwaz in 2018 that killed 25 people.
ASMLA denies Iranian accusations that it was behind the attack, which ISIS had claimed responsibility for.
Chaab was arrested “while planning a new terrorist operation,” according to the video narrator, who added that longer footage with more details on Chaab and ASMLA is to be aired.
ASMLA, considered a terrorist organization by the Iranian regime, seeks a separate state for the indigenous Ahwazi Arab population inside Iran’s oil-rich southwestern Khuzestan province, with its capital city of Ahwaz.
An ethnic minority in Iran, Ahwazi Arabs say they are deprived of decent living standards and civil rights, and face discrimination due to their Arab identity and heritage.
Some see themselves as living under Persian occupation and demand independence or autonomy.
Ahmad Mola Nissi, ASMLA’s founder, was shot dead in the Netherlands in 2017.
In recent years, a number of Iranian dissidents have been arrested in neighboring countries and taken to Iran.
In August, Iran said it arrested US-based opposition figure Jamshid Sharmahd. Details of his arrest and subsequent travel to Iran remain a mystery.
Last year, Iran announced the arrest of Iranian journalist-turned-activist Ruhollah Zam.
Zam, who was given political asylum in France and was also based in other parts of Europe, was sentenced to death in June for allegedly fuelling anti-government unrest in late 2017 on social media.