Former Leader Of Separatist Group 'Arrested,' Transferred To Iran

The former leader of the separatist group the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz (ASMLA) has been arrested and transferred to Iran under unclear circumstances.

The group, which has an armed branch and seeks a separate state for ethnic Arabs in Iran's oil-producing southwestern province of Khuzestan, was named by Tehran as being behind a deadly 2018 terror attack on a military parade in the southwestern city of Ahvaz that left at least 25 dead, including civilians.

Iranian media said state controlled television had reported over the weekend on Telegram that Habib Asyud, also known as Habib Chaab, was arrested in Turkey and taken to Tehran. ASMLA said Tehran had kidnapped Asyud after “luring” him to Turkey.

On November 1, Mojataba Zolnuri, head of parliament’s National Security Committee, confirmed that Asyud had been arrested outside the country and taken to Iran. He said he’s being interrogated by intelligence forces.

Zolnuri described Asyud’s arrest as a “significant success” for the country’s intelligence and security forces and said that he will be put on trial once the investigation is completed.

The hard-line quoted unnamed “informed sources” as saying that Asyud, who has Swedish citizenship, was “handed over” to Iranian authorities without providing further details.

Neither Turkey nor Sweden have officially commented on the news.

Kaabi’s wife, Hoda Havashemi, told the BBC that her husband entered Turkey on October 5 and “disappeared” on October 15, which she said was the date when he was supposed to travel back to Sweden.

Havashemi, who said she and her husband live separately but maintain a strong relationship, added that she had heard that Asuyd had traveled to Turkey “for work.”

ASMLA claimed Asyud had been kidnapped “after a process of enticement in which a Gulf Arab country participated and contributed,” without naming the alleged country.

Three members of the group were detained in Denmark in November 2018 for having praised those behind a deadly attack in the southwestern Iranian city of Ahvaz in September.

In late October 2018, the Danish Intelligence Service PET accused the Iranian intelligence service of plotting to assassinate the leader of the group’s Danish branch. Tehran denied the allegation, calling it a conspiracy aimed at damaging Iran’s relations with the European Union.

In recent years, a number of Iranian opposition activists have ended up in Iran under mysterious circumstances.

They include Jamshid Sharmahd, the leader of the California-based Kingdom Assembly of Iran, or Tondar, who in August appeared blindfolded on Iran’s state-controlled television.

His son told RFE/RL that Sharmahd, whom authorities accuse of having directed "armed operations and acts of sabotage" inside the country, was most likely captured in Dubai and taken to Iran.

In 2019, Ruhollah Zam, the Paris-based administrator of the opposition Telegram channel Amadnews, was reportedly captured by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) during a trip to Iraq and taken to Tehran, where he was later put on trial and sentenced to death after being found guilty of "corruption on Earth."

Iranian authorities had accused Amadnews of stirring up domestic dissent.

With reporting by the BBC, RFE/RL’s Radio Farda,