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Iran arrests 'agent' of London-based opposition TV channel

Iran International employee arrested by armed forces while fleeing the country, according to local media
Last month, Iran announced sanctions against Iran International over their coverage of the ongoing anti-government protests (Public domain)
Last month, Iran announced sanctions against Iran International over their coverage of the ongoing anti-government protests (Public domain)

Iranian armed forces have arrested an alleged employee of an opposition television broadcaster, Iran International, while the individual was fleeing the country, the semi-official Fars news agency said on Thursday.

On Tuesday, Iran's intelligence minister, Esmail Khatib, called the London-based channel a "terrorist" organisation.

The arrest comes at a time of one of the boldest challenges to Iran's clerical rulers since the 1979 revolution amid nationwide protests sparked by the death on 16 September of Mahsa Amini in the custody of morality police for not wearing "appropriate attire".

"Recently, the agent carried out numerous activities and actions in slandering the Islamic Republic, inviting youth to riot and creating terror among the people," Fars said about the arrest.

Iranian media identified the arrested individual as Elham Afkari, who they say had been in contact with the TV channel.

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The semi-official Student News Network broadcaster said she was the sister of Navid Afkari, a 27-year-old Greco-Roman wrestler executed in September 2020 after being convicted of stabbing a security guard to death during anti-government protests in 2018.

Afkari's family and activists had said Navid was tortured into making a false confession, claims which were denied by Iran's judiciary.

Iran International officials were not immediately available for comment.

'Credible' threats

On Wednesday, the BBC reported that a UK law enforcement source had confirmed that two British-Iranian journalists working for Iran International had been warned of a possible risk to their lives. 

Parent company Volant Media said the Metropolitan Police had notified the pair of a recent increase in "credible" threats from Iranian security forces.

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It denounced the "escalation of a state-sponsored campaign to intimidate Iranian journalists working abroad".

Iranian authorities did not respond to the allegations, the BBC said

The Iranian government announced in October sanctions against Iran International and BBC News Persian, accusing them of "incitement of riots" and "support of terrorism" over their coverage of the ongoing anti-government protests.

Iran believes Saudi Arabia funds Iran International which has covered the protest movement extensively since it started. Saudi Arabia has not commented on Iran's accusations.

On Wednesday, Khatib warned Riyadh there was no guarantee Tehran would continue to maintain "strategic patience" towards its regional rival.

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