AP: An Iranian dissident who went missing for almost two weeks in Germany told The Associated Press on Thursday he was kidnapped by four Arabic-speaking man who threatened to kill him for a film he made that is critical of the Iranian regime.
The Associated Press
By KIRSTEN GRIESHABER
BERLIN (AP) — An Iranian dissident who went missing for almost two weeks in Germany told The Associated Press on Thursday he was kidnapped by four Arabic-speaking man who threatened to kill him for a film he made that is critical of the Iranian regime.
In his first interview since his ordeal, Daryush Shokof said he thought the kidnapping was orchestrated by the regime in Tehran even though his captors didn’t speak in Farsi, which is spoken in Iran.
“I am convinced that there is a connection between my kidnapping and the Iranian regime,” Shokof said in a phone interview from Cologne, where he under police protection. “This was the act of this horrendous regime.”
The Iranian Embassy in Berlin did not respond to requests for comment.
Cologne prosecutor Guenter Oehme, who is in charge of the investigation into Shokof’s disappearance, said he could not provide any details because the case is ongoing.
“I can’t say anything because it would threaten our investigations,” Oehme said.
Shokof, a 55-year-old Berlin resident, said one of his captors accused him of blasphemy.
“‘You have insulted Islam, you have insulted the regime, we’re going to kill you, you have to stop the release of your film,’ — that’s what he said to me,” Shokof said. He described the man as about 40 years old and speaking English with a heavy Arabic accent.
He said he told his kidnapper he was not trying to hurt Islam, but criticizing only the Iranian government.
“I told him what happens in Iran has nothing to do with Islam,” he said.
Shokof disappeared May 24 in Cologne, the day he planned to board a train to Paris to promote his new film “Iran Zendan,” or “Iran Prison.” The small independent movie is highly critical of the Iranian regime and shows scenes of torture and rape in an Iranian prison. It was shown once last month to a closed audience of friends at a Berlin theater and then posted on YouTube, but has since been removed.
On June 5, almost two weeks after he went missing, Shokof was found by a group of teenagers — drenched, exhausted and confused — near the Rhine river in Cologne, and taken to a hospital, police said.
Shokof said the evening he was kidnapped, he was sitting on a bench on one of Cologne’s central squares, Friesenplatz, when a man speaking on his cell phone in Arabic sat down next to him.
“Then everything happened at the same moment,” Shokof said.
Shokof said a black Audi pulled up next to the bench, two more men got out, and then the man sitting beside him pushed something — “silverish, it could have been a gun” — against his ribs and told him in German: “Come along!”
He said he was pushed into the car, blindfolded, gagged and handcuffed. He said a fourth man drove the car.
Shokof said he remembers being driven for about forty minutes and being taken from the car into a basement. He said he was kept there during his entire time in captivity, with at least two of the kidnappers with him at all times.
Shokof said he remembers most of his time in captivity only vaguely, and said he believes he was drugged.
He said he was blindfolded constantly, and saw his captors only when he was first seized.
Shokof said the man who accused him of insulting Islam seemed to be the head of the group. The other three men were younger, less educated and spoke a mixture of German and Arabic, “like Arab immigrants who grew up in Germany,” he said.
He said he was never beaten or abused, and that toward the end his captors seemed increasingly nervous.
“They seemed to be getting orders on their cell phones all the time and there was a lot of screaming and bad-mouthing in the end,” he said. He said that he thinks international attention may have eventually triggered his release.
The day he was released, Shokof said, he was driven for about an hour in the car before being taken out of the car at the banks of the Rhine.
“Before they threw me into the river, my kidnappers told me again that they would kill me if I ever showed my movie,” Shokof said.
But Shokof said he was able to swim to shore, then collapsed near a group of people.
He said he has nightmares every night about the kidnapping, but vowed to continue his criticism of the Iranian regime and said he will link his film to three new websites in the coming days.
“My only fault was to stand up for freedom and democracy,” he said.