Two intelligence officers at the Iranian consulate in Turkey instigated the killing of an Iranian dissident in Istanbul last November because he criticized the Islamic Republic’s military and political leaders, two senior Turkish officials told Reuters.
Masoud Molavi Vardanjani was shot dead on an Istanbul street on Nov. 14, 2019, a little over a year after the Turkish officials say he left Iran, according to the Turkish officials.
A police report into the killing, that was published two weeks ago, said Vardanjani had an “unusual profile” and worked in cybersecurity at Iran’s defence ministry and had become a vocal critic of the Iranian authorities.
The same report added that Vardanjani had posted a message on social media targeting Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards in August, three months before he was shot dead.
“I will root out the corrupt mafia commanders,” the post said. “Pray that they don’t kill me before I do this”.
Reuters was unable to independently confirm either Vardanjani’s position at the Iranian defence ministry or his social media posts.
No one at the Iranian embassy and consulate in Turkey responded to calls on Friday seeking comment on Vardanjani’s background or death.
Asked about possible Iranian government involvement in the killing, a spokeswoman for Istanbul’s police said the investigation was continuing and declined to comment further.
Turkish authorities did not publicly accuse the Iranian government of involvement at the time. But the two senior Turkish officials said that the Turkish government would now raise Vardanjani’s killing with Iran and one of them said that Turkish prosecutors were also following the case.
The suspected gunman and several other suspects, including Turks and Iranians, who were detained in the weeks after the killing, told authorities they had acted on orders from two intelligence officers at the Iranian consulate, the first official said.
The second Turkish official said evidence including the suspects’ statements suggested “Iranian nationals played a serious role in both instigating and coordinating” the killing.
Both of the Turkish officials said Ankara would soon deliver a formal response to Iran over Vardanjani’s killing and the role they said was played by officials with diplomatic passports.