Iran tries Arab dissident for terrorism

A “revolutionary” court in Tehran has opened the trial of Habib Chaab, the leader of a pan-Arab movement based abroad, the terrorism-related charges.

Reading the indictment during the January 18 session, a prosecutor charged Chaab with “corruption on earth,” a charge in Iran’s Islamic penal code that carries the death penalty.

The indictment was based on Chaab’s alleged role in “organizing and carrying out terrorist operations” in a campaign “to combat the establishment of the Islamic Republic”.

Chaab, also identified as Asyud, is said to have been one of the founders of an Arab opposition group, known by names such as Al-Nidhal, Al-Ahwaziyah and the Arab Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz, which advocates independence for the Arab minority in Iran’s oil-rich province of Khuzestan.

The trial largely focused on a September 2018 attack by several gunmen who ambushed an Iranian Army Day parade in the city of Ahvaz, killing at least 25 people. Iranian authorities blamed the attack on the Chaab movement, a charge the group denied.

The first session was adjourned without the accused having had the opportunity to speak in court. Dressed in a prisoner’s uniform, the bearded Chaab sat facing the photo of one of the children killed during the 2018 attack.

Just days after the dissident was arrested in late 2020, Iran’s state broadcaster released his confession of having “orchestrated” the Ahvaz attack and several other “plots” in Khuzestan province. Again, before the trial, the official news agency of the judiciary, Mizan, published a series of documentary style videos in which the accused himself describes his activities as “terrorism” and details the disruption of oil pipelines and a bombing inside a private bank branch.

Iran’s state broadcaster and intelligence apparatus have come under heavy criticism from rights organizations for airing confessions from detainees, which they say were obtained under duress in inhumane conditions.

In his initial statement on the capture of Chaab, Iranian Intelligence Ministry did not explain in detail how the dissident was lured to Turkey and only briefly boasted of the “specialized and joint operations” of his “anonymous soldiers”.

However, Turkish officials have accused the Islamic Republic of using dog handlers to abduct and smuggle the accused to Iran. Chaab’s trip to Turkey was, according to a Sky News report, a romantic trap set by a woman assigned to Iran.

The Chaab saga had many elements of a familiar pattern involving Parisian journalist Rouhollah Zam. The dissident’s ill-fated journey began when he fell into an Iranian intelligence trap that took him from France to Iraq and then to Tehran, where he faced what activists called “people’s courtin a trial that ended in his execution.

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