Tehran denies involvement in London attack on TV presenter | Journalist safety

Iran’s most senior diplomat in Britain has denied claims that the Iranian government was behind a knife attack on a TV presenter in London amid growing fears over threats to dissidents.

The country’s charge d’affaires, Mehdi Hosseini Matin, said Iran “denies any link” to the stabbing of Pouria Zeraati, 36, a presenter at Iran International, outside his home in Wimbledon on Friday. He is in a stable condition and was looking forward to being discharged from hospital soon.

The Metropolitan police said a motive for the attack was not yet clear, but Zeraati’s job and recent threats to UK-based Iranian journalists meant the investigation was being led by counter-terrorism officers.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, on Saturday, Matin said Iran had “no link to this story of this so-called journalist”. He wrote that it was “strange and questionable” that a newspaper had accused Iran of being behind the attack and said the claim was “without evidence”.

Iran’s denial comes amid growing concerns over the safety of Iranian dissidents in Britain. Staff at Iran International, which broadcasts in Persian and provides independent coverage of the country, have been reportedly subject to threats from the Iranian regime, which considers it a terrorist organisation.

Pouria Zeraati broadcasts on Iran International, based in London. Photograph: Iran International

Adam Baillie, spokesperson for the channel, said: “There are credible threats which are issued against individuals, then they receive visits from the counter-terror police and Met police and then they have to take precautions. It’s very alarming.”

He told the Observer that Zeraati was outside his home when he was attacked by two unidentified men who jumped into a waiting getaway car after stabbing the journalist multiple times.

The Met said it was called to the address just before 3pm on Friday and found a man in his 30s who had sustained an injury to his leg. No arrests have been made.

Baillie said previous threats to Iran International staff indicated a possible planned attack.

“The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) doesn’t leave fingerprints. Why would they? They operate through certain third parties which is an easy thing for them to do. They could operate via criminal gangs and in any city they want. They would never leave a paper trail between an attack and themselves,” he said. “It does appear on the surface to be a planned attack and they do have a motive to carry out the threat.”

One of Zeraati’s former colleagues at Iran International, Sima Sabet, told the Observer she had been advised by the Met to immediately leave her home after the attack on Zeraati.

In December 2023, an ITV investigation said Sabet and her colleague Fardad Farahzad were targets of a foiled assassination attempt planned for autumn 2022.

The report said an initial car bomb plan was changed at the last minute and a knife attack was considered by “leaders of the IRGC”.

Of the attack on Zeraati, Sabet said: “This is exactly how they wanted to kill me. With a knife.”

She accused the UK government of failing to respond decisively to threats against journalists in the UK from Iran. “When I heard about the attack on Pouria, it made me really angry. A few months ago there was a plot to assassinate me but it was foiled because the attacker revealed the plan. It was so close. Since then, nothing has been done to prevent any attack on any journalist,” she said. “We keep receiving threats … and no one is prepared to do anything to stop these threats.”

After the attempt to target Sabet and Farahzad, the UK and US announced sanctions to tackle domestic threats posed by the Iranian regime, which they said sought to “export repression, harassment and coercion against journalists and human rights defenders”.

The sanctioned Iranian officials, members of the IRGC Unit 840 were accused of coordinating a threat to Iran International. The UK government said the plot was the latest credible example of Iran’s attempts to kill or intimidate Britons or people with links to the UK, with at least 15 such threats since January 2022.

In a separate case, in December 2023 an IT worker was jailed for three-and-a-half years for spying on Iran International’s London headquarters before a “planned attack” on British soil. Magomed-Husejn Dovtaev , a Chechnya-born Austrian, was found guilty at the Old Bailey of trying to collect information for terrorist purposes.

Iranian dissidents living on UK soil have previously told the Observer they do not feel safe in the country and that the Iranian authorities are using transnational repression to silence them.

One UK-based Iranian student, Soudabeh, said she has received several threats after joining protests in Manchester after the death of Mahsa Amini, who died in suspicious circumstances in policy custody in Tehran after being arrested by the morality police for allegedly not wearing a hijab.

Reacting to the attack on Zeraati, Soudabeh said facing “harassment, intimidation, threats, physical attacks and character assassination, both virtually and in the real world”, was a reality for her and others who spoke out against the Iranian government. “In my case, despite complaints lodged with the UK police, effective action was never taken, even after experiencing physical assaults,” she said.

A spokesperson for the Met said the investigation into the attack on Zeraati remained in the “very early stages” and that it was working to establish the motive.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Back To Top