Head of Iranian News Agency Convicted for Publishing Former Ambassador's Spy Remarks

Former Ambassador to Germany had been quoted in the Iranian Students' News Agency saying that the country's intelligence agents in Europe operate 'arbitrarily'

Iranians wear protective face masks, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), as they walk in Vali-E-Asr street, in Tehran, Iran, May 20, 2020.
Iranians wear protective face masks, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), as they walk in Vali-E-Asr street, in Tehran, Iran, May 20, 2020. Credit: WANA NEWS AGENCY/ REUTERS

The head of Iran's semiofficial ISNA news agency has been convicted over publishing an article that quotes a former ambassador criticizing Tehran's “arbitrary” intelligence operations in Europe, a journalism watchdog group said Friday.

It was unclear 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," the Committee to Protect Journalists said. The judiciary's Mizan news agency said Motaghian could face penalties ranging from two months to two years in prison, 74 lashes and a cash fine.

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

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

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

Separately, around the same time, Danish officials accused Iran of planning to assassinate members of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz living there. That group has claimed a series of attacks in Iran seeking to make the country's oil-rich Khuzestan province its own country.

“We are facing an issue inside the country, such as arbitrary operations," ISNA quoted Majedi as saying. "Can we deny that there are no examples of this happening outside the country? Such operations damage the trust.”

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

The Iranian Students' News Agency, or ISNA, opened in 1999 as reformist President Mohammad Khatami sought to change Iran's Shiite theocracy. While independent, it — like other semiofficial news agencies — operates under a license from the government.

Journalists in Iran face harassment from security services, while others have been imprisoned for their work. While local journalists face the brunt of that treatment, foreign journalists in Tehran, especially those with Western ties, have been imprisoned as well.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.

Subscribe today and save 40%

Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

United Arab List chairman Mansour Abbas in the Knesset on Monday.

Arab Voters Will Decide if Israel's Far-right Wins Power

נתניהו עם כיפה שחורה על הראש נשען בשתי ידיו על הכותל

Israel Is Heading for Its Most 'Jewish' Election Ever

An El Al jet sits on the tarmac at John C. Munro International Airport in Hamilton, Thursday, in 2003.

El Al to Stop Flying to Toronto, Warsaw and Brussels

FILE PHOTO: A Star of David hangs from a fence outside the dormant landmark Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood in 2021.

American Judaism Is in Decline. That's Great News for American Jews

Crowds at Israel's Ben-Gurion International Airport, in April.

U.S. Official: West Bank Entry for Palestinian Americans Unrelated to Israeli Visa Waivers

Haaretz spoke with several people who said they had fled Ukraine, arrived in Israel,  and were asked to undergo DNA tests in order to establish paternity.

'My Jewish Grandmother Has a Number on Her Arm, Why Does Israel Greet Me This Way?'