Corbyn defends £20,000 payment for Iranian TV appearances

UK Labour leader says programs on Press TV allowed him to ‘raise a number of human rights issues’

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

UK Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn defends a payment from Iranian TV  on Pink News, September 1, 2016. (Facebook screenshot)
UK Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn defends a payment from Iranian TV on Pink News, September 1, 2016. (Facebook screenshot)

Controversial British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn on Wednesday defended receiving £20,000 ($26,285) for a series of appearances on Iranian TV.

His comments came as a new survey put him way ahead in the polls for the party’s leadership election, the results of which will be announced on September 24. The YouGov survey, published Wednesday, gave him 62 percent of the vote among eligible Labour members, against 38% for contender Owen Smith, a former work and pensions shadow secretary.

Corbyn told a Pink News Q&A on Wednesday that the payment for five appearances on Iranian state TV between 2009 and 2012 — revealed in the UK parliament’s register of members’ financial interests — was “not an enormous amount.”

Challenged over his Press TV appearances in light of Iran’s policy on the LGBT community — homosexuality is a crime punishable by prison, corporal punishment and execution in the country — Corbyn said the appearances enabled him to “raise a number of human rights issues.”

“I presented other programs in which I was able to raise a number of human rights issues, not just in Iran but other countries as well – and the money I was paid, which wasn’t an enormous amount actually, went on my constituency office,” he said.

It was on Press TV, in 2012, that Corbyn famously said it was a “tragedy” that the US had killed Osama bin Laden rather than put him on trial.

Press TV is an English-language news network connected to the state-owned Iranian broadcasting company.

The new head of Britain's Labour party Jeremy Corbyn presents a call-in show on Iran's Press TV in 2010. (screen capture: YouTube)
The new head of Britain’s Labour party Jeremy Corbyn presents a call-in show on Iran’s Press TV in 2010. (screen capture: YouTube)

In 2011, Britain’s Ofcom media watchdog fined the company £100,000 for airing an interview with jailed Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari, saying the interview had been held under duress and after torture while Bahari — now a British resident — was in prison following his coverage of the 2009 Iranian presidential elections.

Corbyn’s election as Labour leader in September 2015 won praise from a senior Iranian official who hailed him as a leader with a “different approach,” who understands Iran’s peacemaking abilities, British newspaper the Telegraph reported, citing Iranian media.

The official — described by the Telegraph as an aide to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — wrote on the Raja News website, which the newspaper said had ties to the former hardline Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The Labour leader has come under fire for referring to Iranian-backed Islamist groups Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends,” which Corbyn dismissed as a diplomatic term intended to engage with the groups. During a speech in 2009 as patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Corbyn invited members of the two terror groups to speak to the British Parliament.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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