Iranian Asylum-Seeker Fails to Show For Flight to Israel, Reportedly Arrested
Neda Amin, the Iranian journalist who was granted political asylum in Israel yesterday, was arrested in Turkey and is expected to be handed over to Iranian authorities, the Arabic-language news website al-Masdar reported Monday.
The foreign ministry in Jerusalem confirmed that Amin did not board her scheduled flight Monday from Istanbul to Tel Aviv, but declined to confirm that she was arrested. Spokespeople for the foreign ministry said Monday morning they were looking into the reports but have not addressed the issue since.
Amin was granted an asylum visa Sunday by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri after she wrote an impassioned letter last week asking countries around the Mediterranean basin for asylum in order to prevent being sent back to Iran.
Amin, 32, ran afoul of Iranian authorities earlier this decade for a series of articles critical of the regime, and eventually fled the country in 2015 after her book Zenjir (“The Chain”) was banned.
Since then she has lived with refugee status in Turkey, but her work for the Jerusalem-based Times of Israel website has raised eyebrows in both Turkey and Iran. According to the UN Watch NGO, Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) has followed Amin “for a long time,” with at least five or six phone calls and an interrogation me at the foreigners’ branch directorate. Arabic-language media reported Monday that Amin has been indicted on several counts of treason stemming from her work for Israeli media, a capital crime in Iran.
“They (Turkish authorities) kept asking me why I wrote for an Israeli newspaper and with whom I have connections in Israel. Although I repeatedly said I am only a journalist, they accused me of being a spy for Israel,” Amin told UN Watch.
On July 5 Ankara informed Amin she would no longer be afforded refugee status and given 30 days to leave the country.
It is not clear why Turkey is planning to expel Amin, but Ankara, led by led by President (and former prime minister) Recep Tayyip Erdo?an has earned a reputation for aggressive hostility to the media. More than 30 percent – 81 out of 259 – of the journalists currently imprisoned around the world have been jailed in Turkey, including the prosecution last month of 17 journalists for the daily Cumhuriyet newspaper who were accused of aiding and abetting terrorist organizations.
“This is a journalist who faces a real danger to her life, only because of writing columns on an Israeli news website,” said Deri.