Iran accused of plotting to kill two journalists in UK

By Sahar Akbarzai and Lauren Kent, CNN

CNN  —  Two British-Iranian journalists working in the United Kingdom have been warned by police of a “credible” plot by Iran to kill them, according to their employer, London-based news channel Iran International.

In a statement Monday, the Farsi-language broadcaster said it was “shocked and deeply concerned” by the alleged lethal threats, while accusing Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) of being part of a “significant and dangerous escalation” of Tehran’s “campaign to intimidate Iranian journalists working abroad.”

“Two of our British-Iranian journalists have, in recent days, been notified of an increase in the threats to them,” Iran International said in the statement. “The Metropolitan Police have now formally notified both journalists that these threats represent an imminent, credible and significant risk to their lives and those of their families.”

Iran International did not name the journalists for security reasons.

The IRGC is a branch of the Iranian Armed Forces, founded after the Iranian Revolution in 1979 by the order of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. It is designated by the United States as a terrorist organization.

Iran International has become one of the go-to sources for many Iranians looking for news on the protests following the death in custody of Mahsa Amini – a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman detained by morality police for allegedly not wearing her hijab properly.

“These lethal threats to British citizens on British soil come after several weeks of warnings from the IRGC and Iranian government about the work of a free and uncensored Farsi-language media working in London,” the news channel added in its statement.

Iran International said other members of its staff have also been warned by the police of separate threats, according to the statement.

“We hope that the UK Government, international governments and other organizations will join us in condemning these horrific threats and continue to highlight the importance of media freedom,” the statement added.

London’s Metropolitan Police told CNN they would not comment on matters of protective security in relation to any specific individuals.

“We would advise anyone with concerns over their safety to contact police so that officers can assess the situation and offer any safety and security advice as and where necessary,” the police said.

The IRGC could not be immediately contacted when CNN reached out for comment.

Iran International’s protest coverage

Founded in 2017, Iran International has been at the forefront of covering the recent demonstrations with exclusive footage of events on the ground. Its Twitter account has more than a million followers.

The 24-hour news channel has previously come under scrutiny by the Iranian government for its coverage.

In 2018, Iran International released a statement denying connections to any government, including Riyadh or Tehran, after British newspaper The Guardian reported it was funded by a firm whose director has ties to Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

In October, Iran said it sanctioned a number of media outlets in the UK for “supporting terrorism” and “inciting violence,” the state-aligned Tasnim news agency reported.

The sanctioned entities included what Tehran referred to as “anti-Iranian TV channels” such as Iran International, Tasnim reported.

Journalists in Iran have also come under pressure by Iranian authorities, including facing imprisonment and arrests.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said that as of Monday at least 61 journalists have been arrested in Iran for reasons including covering the protests, reporting on the death of protesters, and taking photos of demonstrations, according to a report from the organization.

Meanwhile, in a Twitter post Tuesday, Kurdish human rights group Hengaw Organization for Human Rights said the IRGC “has increased its threats against Hengaw members in recent days,” following the death of a Kurdish Iranian woman that sparked a wave of protests in the country on Sunday.

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