Syrian defector being held hostage in Iran, brother claims
A Syrian army defector, waves the Syrian revolution flag and shouts slogans shortly after he defected. AP file photoThe family of a Syrian defector allegedly handed over to the Syrian government by a Turkish intelligence officer believes their loved one is currently being held in Iran, broadcaster NTV reported on its website.
"We heard he was being held in Iran with nearly 100 other soldiers from the Free Syrian Army. [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad plans to use them as bargaining chip in case he gets captured," said Ibrahim Harmoush, the brother of Lt. Col. Hussein al-Harmoush.
Hussein al-Harmoush has been missing for the past six months, his family has said. The defector’s wife, four sons and his brother are residents at a refugee camp in the southern province of Hatay.
Ibrahim al-Harmoush said the person who took his brother from the camp in Hatay introduced himself as "Abu Mehmet” and was a person who reportedly kept a close eye on everyone in the camp.
"Hussein could not find any weapons, he had no cash on himself anyway," the lieutenant colonel’s brother said. "Abu Mehmet came and told Hussein that he would give him money and weapons. ‘Turkey wants to help you,’ he kept telling Hussein."
Hussein al-Harmoush's wife, Hejazi, said she told her husband not to trust Abu Mehmet since she suspected he might try and deceive him.
Ibrahim al-Harmoush said he was somewhat relieved that the person who was accused of kidnapping his brother was captured. "I do not want to accuse Turkey. The culprit would have never been caught if the state was in on the crime," he said.
The last time they saw Hussein al-Harmoush was on Syrian state television on Aug. 29, 2011, during an interview in which he was being held at gunpoint, Ibrahim al-Harmoush said.
Five people, including a member of Turkey's National Intelligence Organization (MİT), were arrested last week for allegedly turning over al-Harmoush and Mustafa Kassum to Syrian forces in exchange for 100,000 dollars.
The lieutenant colonel defected to Turkey in June 2011 but was arrested in Syria in August. Al-Harmoush was “tricked by Syrian intelligence,” who was able to penetrate the refugee camps in Hatay, one Syrian dissident speaking on the condition of anonymity told the Hürriyet Daily News on Feb. 10.
The dissident rejected claims that Turkish intelligence played a role in the incident.
Turkey is home to more than 7,500 Syrians who have fled al-Assad’s crackdown on opponents that has left more than 6,000 people dead since mid-March of last year, according to human rights groups.