09 March 2021 :
Iran Denies Citizen Detained In Turkey Is A Consulate Employee.
"No consulate employee has been arrested," foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters on February 15. "What has happened is the arrest of an Iranian national upon entry," he added, noting that Iran was in contact with Turkey regarding the matter. He gave no further details.
Mohammad Reza Naserzadeh, 43, was arrested earlier this week, Turkey’s pro-government Sabah newspaper reported. He is accused of forging travel documents for Ali Esfanjani – the alleged mastermind of the killing of dissident Masoud Molavi Vardanjani – to smuggle him to Iran. The assassination was carried out by a Turkish national named Abdulvahap Kocak, but was allegedly orchestrated by Esfanjani who fled to Iran following the incident.
With the case being revived, the consulate staff member Muhammad Reza Naserzadeh is accused of having forged documents for Esfanjani to enable his return to Iran, and was arrested earlier this week after a court order was issued.
Reuters confirmed that Naserzadeh had been held over Vardanjani’s killing, but the news agency said it could not confirm Sabah’s allegation that the suspect worked at the civic registry department of the Iranian Consulate in Istanbul. Vardanjani, a former Iranian intelligence operative who exposed corruption involving Iranian officials, was shot and killed in Istanbul on November 14, 2019 — a year after leaving Iran. He had been put under investigation by Iranian authorities. A Turkish police report published in March 2020 said Vardanjani had worked in cybersecurity at Iran’s Defense Ministry before becoming a vocal critic of the Iranian regime. Two senior Turkish officials told Reuters last year that Vardanjani’s killing was instigated by intelligence officials at the Iranian Consulate in Istanbul. One of the officials identified the two suspects by their initials, and one set of initials matched Naserzadeh’s. A senior U.S. administration official said in April 2020 that Washington had grounds to believe that Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security was directly involved in Vardanjani’s killing. Iran has denied that any consulate staff had been involved in Vardanjani’s shooting death. Last week, a Belgian court sentenced an Iranian diplomat to 20 years in prison on charges of planning an attack on an exiled opposition group. It was the first trial of an Iranian official on terrorism charges in Europe since Iran’s 1979 revolution.