Iranian dissident kidnapped in Turkey after being lured by honeytrap

Turkish officials say Iranian opposition figure Habib Chaab was enticed to Istanbul by spy posing as romantic interest

An international plan to kidnap a dissident in Istanbul, involving a honeytrap Iranian spy, soured relations between Turkey, Iran and Europe.

Turkish counter-terrorism files claim Iranian opposition activist Habib Chaab was lured into the trap on October 9 before being smuggled back to Iran, Sky News reported on Wednesday.

The prominent Arab activist now faces public execution and his friends and family are calling on the international community to intervene and save him.

On Monday, Turkey arrested 11 people suspected of working with Iran to abduct Mr Chaab, who founded a separatist group called the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz.

The group calls for independence of the ethnic Arab minority in south-west Iran.

Mr Chaab fled Iran more than 10 years ago and went into exile with his family in Sweden, where he now has citizenship but continues to support the separatist group.

Security pictures provided by Turkish intelligence appear to show a plan to lure him to Turkey on the pretext of a romantic meeting with a young woman.

Turkish investigators say she was actually an Iranian spy and arrived in Turkey on a fake Iranian passport.

Mr Chaab disappeared soon after he reached Istanbul. Reports suggest that he did not tell his friends about the trip.

Pictures show him and the woman buying cable ties at a hardware store. Turkish officials claim these were used to bind his hands and feet when he was kidnapped later that evening.

Mr Chaab was put inside a vehicle and investigators claim he was drugged and driven more than 1,600 kilometres to the east of the country, near the border with Iran, before being smuggled across.

Two days later, he was on state TV admitting his involvement in an attack on a military parade in the south of Iran years previously.

CCTV images reveal those accused of the kidnapping met in Istanbul the day before the abduction.

It is not the first time Iran has been accused of using operatives to lure dissidents living in the West into locations where they can be abducted or killed.

On Monday, the US charged two Iranian officials with the kidnapping and disappearance of former FBI and DEA agent Robert Levinson, who had not been seen for 13 years.

Several journalists working for London-based news broadcaster Iran International were threatened by the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and National Security that they will be taken back to Iran unless they leave their jobs. Some said their families were also threatened by the ministry.

On Saturday, journalist Ruhollah Zam, who was captured by Iranian officials in October 2019 after leaving France for Iraq, was executed in Tehran.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani defended the execution.

Mr Chaab's friends and family are now seriously concerned for his safety, believing his confession was coerced.

Some accuse Turkish intelligence of colluding with the Iranian regime to enable Mr Chaab to be snatched and taken from the country.

Turkish authorities have vehemently denied being involved in the kidnapping.