Fri, 27 May 2022

The ex-wife of an Iranian-Swedish dissident on trial in Iran says she's worried he will not get a fair trial on terrorism charges that she believes are trumped up.

Iranian authorities have accused Habib Chaab, a founder and former leader of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz (ASMLA) separatist group, of 'managing and leading a terrorist group,' as well as of 'planning and carrying out numerous bombings and terrorist operations' in the southwestern province of Khuzestan.

Chaab lived in Sweden for 14 years until he was apparently 'lured' to Turkey by Iranian intelligence agents. He went missing during a visit to Turkey in October 2020 and a month later appeared in a video on Iranian state television in which he claimed responsibility for launching an attack and working with Saudi intelligence services.

In the indictment, Chaab, also known as Habib Asyud, is accused of being behind a deadly 2018 terror attack on a military parade in Khuzestan's capital, Ahvaz, that left at least 25 dead, including civilians.

The first hearing in his trial was held on January 18 at Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court.

'We know that when [Chaab] said on TV, 'We offer our congratulations on the operation,' that it doesn't mean he did it. But [Iranian authorities] are using it as an excuse and claiming that he knew about it,' his former wife, Hoda Havashemi, told RFE/RL, adding that she didn't believe he was involved in the incident.

Havashemi said that the Swedish authorities had not been granted access to Chaab. Iran does not recognize dual citizenship.

Havashemi also said it's still not clear why Chaab decided to travel to Turkey.

ASMLA, which has an armed branch and seeks a separate state for ethnic Arabs in oil-producing Khuzestan, is considered a terrorist group by Tehran. The group has been blamed by Iran for a series attacks on government institutions, oil facilities, and other infrastructure over the years.

ASMLA is primarily based in the Netherlands and Denmark.

In April 2021, three of its leaders went on trial in Denmark on charges of financing and promoting terrorism in Iran with Saudi Arabia's backing.

In late October 2018, the Danish intelligence service accused the Iranian intelligence service of plotting to assassinate at least one of the three leaders of the group's Danish branch, which Tehran denied.

A Danish court in 2020 sentenced a Norwegian-Iranian to seven years in prison for his role in the assassination plot.

In November 2017, a leader of ASMLA was shot dead in The Hague in an attack the Dutch government said was linked to Iran.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Washington DC 20036

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