One week after the sentencing of Assadollah Asadi – a diplomat of the Islamic Republic in Vienna, Austria – to 20 years in prison, Mohammadreza Nasserzadeh, a staffer at the Iranian consulate in Istanbul, was arrested and charged with aiding and abetting in the assassination of Massoud Molavi Vardanjani in Turkey.
Muhammadreza Naserzadeh, the 43-year-old staffer working at the civic registry department of the Iranian consulate in Istanbul, is accused of forging travel documents for Ali Esfanjani, the alleged architect of the killing of the defected Intelligence operative Massoud Molavi Vardanjani.
Siyavash Abazari Shalamzari is one of the suspects arrested as a result of the investigation to the murder of Vardanjani. He allegedly had helped Esfanjani flee into Iran following the murder. The arrest warrant was issued for Muhammad Reza Naserzadeh upon Shalamzari’s testimony.
Vardanjani was shot dead on the street in the Şişli district of Istanbul on November 13, 2019. According to Sabah newspaper, after Massoud Molavi Vardanjani defected from the Iranian Intelligence apparatus, he moved to Turkey, launched a few social media accounts, and started exposing Iranian officials’ corruption. Little did he know that an informer of the Iranian Intelligence ministry in Turkey, Ali Esfanjani, a fellow Iranian Vardanjani met in Istanbul and trusted, was watching him and feeding information about him to Iranain operatives in Turkey.
Turkish security forces’ investigation revealed that the person who actually pulled the trigger to kill Vardanjani was an individual named Abdulvahhab Koçak, allegedly a henchman of the fugitive Iranian drug lord, Naji Sharifi Zindashti. Ali Esfanjani was the one to meet with the killer and gave him Vardanjani’s whereabouts in a shopping mall. Half an hour later, Esfanjani was meeting Vardanjani to lead him to the street where he was about to be shot in the back 11 times by Koçak.
Esfanjani has obtained fake travel documents from the Iranian Consulate in Istanbul. Turkish security forces have arrested Siyavash Abazari Shalamzari who organized Esfanjani’s escape to Iran, the killer, Abdulvahhab Koçak, and Ali Koçak, also a suspect in the murder of Saeed Karimian, owner of a Persian-language TV station in Istanbul previously.
According to a report in the Turkey-based Sabah newspaper, Shalamzari’s testimony reveals that at least six Iranian intelligence officers were involved in making Esfanjani escape to Iran after he murdered Massoud Molavi Vardanjani.
It seems that the Islamic republic’s Intelligence framework is now using drug dealing networks or other criminals to abduct or kill Iranian dissidents abroad rather than members of Hezbollah as they employed in Mykonos restaurant assassination. That would give them the possibility of denial in case the killers are caught during or after the operations. But the Iranian embassies around the world seem to still play the same role of logistic support such as providing funds and forging fake passports.
In this case, one cannot but recognize the footprint of the Iranian intelligence and their modus operandi.
The interesting point in all these cases of assassination of the dissidents abroad and inside the country is the fact that they all happened during the tenure of the so-called ‘’moderate’’ Presidents’ administrations.
By Avideh Rafaëla Motmâenfar, a Belgian-Canadian citizen of Iranian descent. She holds a D.O. Degree since 2000 (The Belgian School of Osteopathy, Belgium). She has also studied at the Ecole de Journalisme at the Free University of Brussels, Belgium and is a graduate of The Art Institute Of Toronto. She has been volunteering in producing radio programs for Radio Koocheh on medical and medico social issues for 4 years and continues to write and blog.