Did security forces deport escaped prisoner back to Iran? MPs submit probe findings

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Five members of the Kurdistan regional parliament have submitted their findings from an investigation into the alleged handover of an Iranian Kurdish prisoner to Tehran by Kurdish security forces (Asayesh) in early April. 

The MPs submitted their findings to parliament, which later forwarded them to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) for further investigation, according to a document seen by Rudaw on Friday.

Mostafa Salimi, 53, was once a Kurdish opposition fighter, but, according to Iranian authorities, was convicted of murdering three police officers in an armed robbery nearly two decades ago, landing him on death row. 

Salimi was among 76 prisoners who escaped the city jail in Saqqez, Kurdistan province, western Iran on March 27 during a prison riot sparked by the coronavirus outbreak.

Salimi was executed in the early hours of April 11, according to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)-affiliated Tasnim news agency. Kurdistan province prosecutor Mohammad Jabbari said Salimi had been recaptured near Saqqez.

However, there are reports Salimi was actually captured in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and turned over to Iranian authorities. 

Salimi allegedly reached the border town of Penjwen in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq but was later handed over to Iranian authorities by local Asayesh forces affiliated with the ruling Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which enjoys good relations with Tehran. 

Both Iranian and PUK-affiliated officials have denied Salimi entered the Kurdistan Region. 

Five parliamentarians from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) launched an investigation into the matter and submitted their findings to the parliament on Tuesday, according to a document released on Friday. 


According to the investigation, Salimi and six other escapees attempted to flee to the Kurdistan Region. Some of the six were captured before crossing the border, but Salimi succeeded. 

“Mostafa Salimi entered Southern Kurdistan [the Kurdistan Region of Iraq] on April 2, 2020. He went to Syagwez village in Garmk district [of Penjwen city]. He sent a message to his son saying he had arrived in the South,” the lawmakers said. 

Salimi went to the village mosque and met with two locals, Sirwan Hama Amin and Ismail Tofiq. 

Salimi asked Hama Amin to call his friend in Sulaimani who had also been a fighter with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (PDK) – an armed Kurdish opposition group in Iran.

The following day, Hama Amin informed the security forces (Asayesh) about Salimi. He also called Salimi’s friend to inform him he had been handed over to the Asayesh. 

Salimi’s friend called Hama Amin again on April 4 to get an update on him but he was told the Asayesh had taken him to Bashmakh border crossing to be quarantined for suspected coronavirus. 

But, despite his friend’s efforts, the fugitive was handed over to Iran. 

Graphic: Google Maps / Abdulbasit Ibrahem

“Before hanging him, prison officials contacted Salimi’s family and told them that they could see him. They saw Salimi on April 10, 2020 and he told them he had visited Southern Kurdistan but was handed over to Iran from there,” the MPs’ report states.

“Because this is a moral, political, and national matter, we believe it is important to pay attention to it and reveal the findings of the investigation to the public.”

What happened?

Iran has been particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 outbreak. Fears the virus could spread quickly in the country’s overcrowded jails caused panic among prisoners. 

Inmates rioted in Saqqez on March 27 and around 76 of them escaped. Most of them have since been rearrested. 

Claims Salimi was extradited to Iran by Kurdistan Region security forces to face death has caused outcry among Kurds on both sides of the border. 

Asayesh and PUK officials have denied the claim, and Hossein Khosheqbal, a deputy to Iran’s Kurdistan province governor, has called the alleged arrest by Kurdistan Region security forces “a pure falsehood”. 

Nazim Dabagh, the KRG representative in Tehran, who is from the PUK, told VOA Kurdish on April 13: “I don’t speak without evidence… Mostafa Salimi had not gone to the Kurdistan Region and was arrested inside Iran, near the city of Baneh.”  

Jotiar Adil, spokesperson for the KRG, said on April 11 that the government had launched an investigation, the results of which are yet to be revealed.  

The alleged incident has been criticized by human rights organizations.

“This is a blatant violation of human rights contradicting all the international agreements and article 21 of the Iraqi constitution which stipulates that political asylum seekers should never be extradited to their countries of origin,” the Independent Board of Human Rights (IBHR) head Ziya Petros told Rudaw earlier in April. 

Hemin Hawrami, deputy speaker of the Kurdistan Region parliament, forwarded the findings to the KRG, according to an undated, unsigned document released on Friday. 

The issue has been added to a new wave of war of words between the KDP and PUK, each blaming the other for betrayal. KDP claims the PUK helps Iran against Kurdish opposition groups while the PUK claims the KDP helps Turkey against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). 

This is clear from the fact that the findings were forwarded from Hawrami, who is from the KDP, not speaker Rewaz Faiaq from the PUK.