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Iran news agency head convicted for interviewee’s spy remark

by Ace Damon
Iran news agency head convicted for interviewee's spy remark

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – The head of Iran's semi-official ISNA news agency has been convicted of publishing an article citing a former ambassador who criticizes Tehran's "arbitrary" intelligence operations in Europe, it said on Friday. a journalism watchdog group.

It was not clear what sentence was handed down to ISNA CEO Ali Motaghian after his trial on charges of "publishing lies with the intention of disturbing the public," said the Committee to Protect Journalists. The Judiciary's Mizan news agency said Motaghian could face sentences ranging from two months to two years in prison, 74 lashes and a cash fine.

The case stems from a complaint filed by the intelligence arm of Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard. It involved an extensive interview published by ISNA in January 2019 with former German ambassador Ali Majedi.

During the interview, Majedi appeared to criticize some operations of Iran's intelligence apparatus in Europe.

The comments came after Germany arrested Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi of Vienna, who prosecutors said belonged to the country's Ministry of Intelligence. Prosecutors allege that Assadi gave some explosives and was involved in a conspiracy to bomb an annual rally by the Iranian exile group Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, or MEK, in neighboring France.

Separately, at the same time, Danish authorities accused Iran of planning to murder members of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz who live there. That group claimed a series of attacks in Iran seeking to make the oil-rich Khuzestan province its own country.

"We are facing a problem within the country, such as arbitrary operations," said Majedi. “Can we deny that there are no examples of this happening outside the country? Such operations damage confidence. "

The reporter who wrote the story and Majedi was not found guilty by the Tehran Media Court at a hearing in May, CPJ said.

The Iranian Student News Agency, or ISNA, opened in 1999, when reformist President Mohammad Khatami tried to change Iran's Shiite theocracy. Although independent, he – like other semi-official news agencies – operates under a government license. .

Journalists in Iran face harassment for security services, while others have been arrested for their work. While local journalists face the impact of this treatment, foreign journalists in Tehran, especially those with Western ties, were also arrested.

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