Iran claims to arrest employee of London-based opposition TV channel fleeing country

‘Agent’ of Iran International is suspected of slandering Iran, causing riots, spreading terror, Fars news agency says; TV outlet dismisses claim, says it has no employees in Iran

Screen capture of the opposition Iran International network homepage, November 10, 2022. (Iran International. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Screen capture of the opposition Iran International network homepage, November 10, 2022. (Iran International. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Iran has arrested an employee of a London-based opposition news station as an “agent” suspected of fueling recent anti-regime rioting, the country’s semi-official Fars news agency reported Thursday.

The Iran International worker was stopped while trying to flee the Islamic Republic, it said.

“Recently, the agent carried out numerous activities and actions in slandering the Islamic Republic, inviting youth to riot and creating terror among the people,” according to the report.

In a statement to The Times of Israel, however, Iran International said “no agent or employee of Iran International has been arrested” and clarified that “Iran International TV does not have employees or agents in Iran.”

Referring to reports that Elham Afkari, sister of the executed wrestler Navid Afkari, had been arrested, Iran International stressed that she “has no association with Iran International TV.”

Iran accuses Iran International, a Persian-language satellite news channel once majority-owned by a Saudi national, of stoking recent nationwide protests that have escalated into deadly violence. The broadcaster in recent days said the Metropolitan Police warned that two of its British-Iranian journalists faced threats from Iran that “represent an imminent, credible and significant risk to their lives and those of their families.”

On Tuesday, Iran’s intelligence minister, Esmail Khatib, called Iran International a “terrorist” organization, Reuters reported.

Iran International, for its part, describes itself as an “independent news organization providing uncensored, accurate and unbiased news to a Farsi-speaking viewership within and outside Iran.” It says it has “no affiliation or association” with any political group or any organization.

The arrest came as protests in Iran raged on streets into Thursday, with demonstrators holding a 40th-day remembrance for a bloody crackdown in the country’s southeast, even as the nation’s intelligence minister and army chief renewed threats against local dissent and the broader world.

Iranian students protest against the Islamic regime at Amir Kabir University in Tehran, October 29, 2022. (Twitter screenshot: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

The protests in Iran, sparked by the September 16 death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after her detention by the country’s morality police, have grown into one of the largest sustained challenges to the nation’s theocracy since the chaotic months after its 1979 Islamic Revolution.

At least 328 people have been killed and 14,825 others arrested in the unrest, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group that’s been monitoring the protests over their 54 days. Iran’s government for weeks has remained silent on casualty figures while state media counterfactually claims security forces have killed no one.

Meanwhile, Iranian officials have kept up their threats against the demonstrators and the wider world. In an interview with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s personal website Wednesday, intelligence minister Khatib renewed threats against Saudi Arabia, a nation along with Britain, Israel and the US that officials have blamed for fomenting unrest that appears focused on local grievances.

Khatib warned that Iran’s “strategic patience” could run out.

“Throwing stones at powerful Iran by countries sitting in glass houses has no meaning other than crossing the borders of rationality into the darkness of stupidity,” Khatib said. “Undoubtedly, if the will of the Islamic Republic of Iran is given to reciprocate and punish these countries, the glass palaces will collapse and these countries will not see stability.”

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