February 12, 2022
Turkey’s intelligence (MIT) Friday supplied local media details of its detention of 14 Iranians and Turks it says were involved in kidnapping Iranians.
Footage shown by Turkish media Friday included arrests, searches of suspects’ homes, and female suspects transferred by armed security forces.
The Turkish media also released some details of the persons involved in the alleged kidnapping ring. They claimed the leaders were two Iranian intelligence officers, named as Seyed-Mehdi Hossein and Ali Ghahraman-Hajiabad, although these were not among the two Iranians and 12 Turks arrested.
Turkey’s OdaTV, a news website, last week reported that Ghahraman-Hajiabad was an Iranian intelligence office who had ‘masterminded’ a plan to kidnap an Iranian wanted by the Iranian intelligence service in Zonguldak, a city in Turkey’s Black Sea region. OdaTV put the number of arrests as 11.
Turkey’s official Anadolou (Anatolia) news agency Friday relayed information from Turkish intelligence that an Iranian national among the detainees, whom it named as Morteza Soltan-Sanjari, had worked for Ihsan Saglam, a Turkish national who owns By Saglam defense company.
The report alleged that one of the Iranian intelligence officers had offered $1 million to Soltan-Sanjari and Saglam for the capture of ‘MR,’ an Iranian naval officer who had deserted. Hakan Saglam, another member of the alleged plot, had located MR and promised to smuggle him to the United States.
But the report also said the 14 kidnappers were paid $150,000 for each operation. It named
Yaghoub Hafez, an Iranian colonel, as someone successfully rendered to Tehran.
Anadolou alleged that Ihsan Saglam had tortured the person who later smuggled Hafez out of Turkey to force them to locate the colonel in Denizli province, western Turkey. Hafez was told that he was wanted by Iran, could be smuggled though Iraq to a “safe country,” but was then instead taken in February 2019 back to Iran.
CNN Turk Friday said the kidnapping ring later collapsed when Turkish authorities found out that Soltan-Sanjari and Saglam and were planning to abduct “Iranian dissidents.”
In a different case, Turkey’s Sabah Daily reported Friday that MIT had arrested eight Turks and Iranians over a failed Iranian plot to assassinate an Israeli businessman, Yair Geller, in Istanbul, in retaliation for the United States killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad in January 2020.
It is unclear when or whether any of these cases will reach courts. The Stockholm Center for Freedom in its 2021 report for Turkey wrote that Turkish courts “systematically accept bogus indictments, [and] detain and convict without compelling evidence of criminal activity…”
Turkey’s relations with Iran, despite trade continuing at around $10 billion in the face of US ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions, have been strained over Ankara’s support for Azerbaijan in the 2020 war with Armenia, and by Turkey’s support for militant Islamists in Syria opposing President Bashar al-Assad, an Iranian ally.
At the same time Turkey has also detained and put on trial16 individuals of different nationalities on charges of “political and military” espionage for Israel.