Iran denies diplomat was arrested in Turkey for allegedly helping kill dissident

The allegations stem from the 2019 killing of Masoud Molavi Vardanjani in Istanbul.

al-monitor Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov (C) and his Iranian and Turkish counterparts, Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) and Mevlut Cavusoglu (R), hold a meeting in Baku on Dec. 20, 2017.  Photo by TOFIK BABAYEV/AFP via Getty Images.

Topics covered

islamic republic, foreign ministry, turkish media, dissident, istanbul

Feb 12, 2021

The Iranian government has denied a report stating that an Iranian diplomat in Turkey was arrested in relation to the killing of a dissident in Istanbul.

Turkish authorities arrested an Iranian official suspected of involvement in the November 2019 killing of Masoud Molavi Vardanjani, who was a critic of the Islamic Republic. The official, named Mohammad Reza Naserzadeh, was arrested this week for allegedly planning the deadly shooting, Reuters reported on Friday.

However, Iran's Foreign Ministry said Turkish media falsely reported that an employee at the Iranian consulate in Istanbul was arrested.

“None of the staffers of our country’s Consulate General in Istanbul has been or is engaged, closely or remotely, in the activities alleged by that (Turkish) media. Moreover, none of the employees of our country’s Consulate General has been arrested,” said Saeed Khatibzadeh on Friday, according to the semi-official Tasnim News Agency.

Khatibzadeh added that the man named in Turkish media is not an employee of the Iranian consulate.

The arrest of the consular employee was first reported by the Turkish news outlet Daily Sabah. Naserzadeh allegedly helped smuggle the mastermind of the assassination to Iran by forging travel documents. Authorities learned about Naserzadeh’s alleged involvement while questioning another man suspected of helping the mastermind escape, according to the outlet.

Vardanjani was a former Iranian intelligence operative who posted on social media about corruption in the Iranian government and security apparatus, according to Daily Sabah.

Naserzadeh has denied the charges, saying he was not in Turkey at the time of the killing and did not know the alleged mastermind of the plot, Daily Sabah reported.

This is not the first time Turkey has accused Iran of killing a dissident on its soil. In December, Turkey arrested 11 people who allegedly worked with Iran to abduct an Arab Iranian dissident in Istanbul and smuggle him back to Iran.

Turkey and Iran have some shared interests, but the two states have differed recently on several issues, especially regarding the wars in the Caucasus and Syria.

This recent arrest as well as the ones in December could harm relations. Daily Sabah also reported on Thursday that an Iranian consulate employee assaulted a Turkish journalist in Istanbul.

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