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British FM summons Iran envoy over threats to journalists

‘We do not tolerate threats and intimidation from foreign nations towards individuals living in the UK,’ says James Cleverly

Britain's Foreign Secretary James Cleverly arrives in Downing Street to attend a cabinet meeting in London, November 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Britain's Foreign Secretary James Cleverly arrives in Downing Street to attend a cabinet meeting in London, November 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

LONDON — Britain on Friday hauled in a senior Iranian diplomat after what it described as death threats against journalists living in the UK, following weeks of anti-regime protests.

The move coincided with Melika Balali, 22, an Iranian-born wrestler now based in Scotland, receiving police protection after accusations that she too had been threatened by the Tehran regime.

“I have summoned the Iranian charge d’affaires today after journalists working in the UK were subject to immediate threats to life from Iran,” Foreign Secretary James Cleverly tweeted.

“We do not tolerate threats and intimidation from foreign nations towards individuals living in the UK,” he said.

Two British-Iranian journalists working in the UK for an independent Farsi-language channel have received “credible” death threats from Iran’s security forces, the channel’s broadcaster said on Monday.

Volant Media, the London-based broadcaster of Iran International TV channel, said the pair had received “death threats from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.”

The channel has been covering the anti-regime protests in Iran following the death in mid-September of Mahsa Amini for allegedly breaching strict dress rules for women.

Volant Media said London’s Metropolitan Police force had also notified other journalists of threats. The Met refused to comment.

But Police Scotland confirmed Friday that it had instituted a “safety plan” to protect Balali, who moved to Scotland a year ago and now represents her adopted country in UK competitions.

When she won gold for Scotland at the British Wrestling Championships in June, Balali held up a sign saying “stop forcing hijab” and “I have the right to be a wrestler.”

Amini, who was also 22, died in police custody after her arrest for allegedly wearing the hijab “improperly.”

Balali recently shaved her head at a protest in Glasgow, in an act of solidarity with the ongoing protests in Iran over women’s rights.

“These threats make me stronger. When I receive threats from the government of Iran I just think my way is right — if I were wrong, why would they threaten me?” the wrestler told BBC Scotland.

Iran has warned Britain it will “pay” for what it labeled its actions to destabilize the Islamic republic in the protests sparked by Amini’s death, state media reported Wednesday.

Iran says Britain harbors hostile Farsi-language media reporting on the protests. The BBC in turn has accused Tehran of waging a campaign of threats and intimidation against its Persian service.

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