Iran warns on 'cooperating' with BBC

Sept. 27, 2011 at 6:24 AM
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TEHRAN, Sept. 27 (UPI) -- Iran's intelligence minister has issued a warning to his fellow Iranians to not cooperate with the BBC, less than week after arresting six filmmakers.

Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi said Sunday he is advising all people "who are thinking about cooperation with BBC to be careful not to fall into the trap of this anti-Iranian and counter-revolutionary institution," the semi-official Mehr News Agency reported.

More arrests are coming, he said, asserting his ministry had "obtained important information about people who are in connection with BBC" and that "intelligence agents are diligently pursuing the issue."

The warning came after the Sept. 20 arrests of six filmmakers who were accused of working for the BBC Persian service, which has been banned by the government. The arrests were made the day after the BBC showed a documentary on Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

The filmmakers weren't involved in the production, the BBC said, adding it has no employees for the Persian service inside Iran.

"The individuals in question are independent documentary filmmakers whose films have been screened in festivals and other venues internationally," the BBC said in a statement.

The broadcaster said the arrests were part of an Iranian government effort to put pressure on the broadcaster concerning its Farsi-language TV broadcasts.

Moslehi asserted Sunday the British intelligence service MI6 is operating under the cover of BBC and had "started a new phase of destructive activities against Iran, so the Intelligence Ministry stepped in to prevent people from falling into their trap."

The intelligence minister warned the arrests were only "the first step" in Tehran's efforts to "firmly fulfill its duties" in battling alleged British spying.

An announcement issued by the intelligence ministry Tuesday alleged those arrested had received "a huge amount of money" from Britain to carry out spying activities.

Iranian courts have banned Iranians from working for the BBC, which it says is bent on provoking unrest in the country.

"Basically, BBC is not a media, rather it is an organization in disguise which has a Baha'i-Zionist nature with political-intelligence missions," Moslehi said.

He reasserted Tehran's position that the British broadcaster has played "a key role" in the 2009 post-election uprising by anti-government protesters in Iran, calling it a "conglomerate of different antirevolutionary elements which carry out the most inimical acts against the country."

The arrests of the six filmmakers came after "continued monitoring and controlling measures and massive intelligence gathering inside and outside the country by Iran's intelligence forces in the past few months," the semi-official FARS News Agency reported.

Tehran said the filmmakers were "members of a covert network" who allegedly supplied information to the BBC to provide "logistic support for enemies' soft war experts."

Moslehi's anti-BBC comments were echoed by a top Iranian judicial official Sunday.

Deputy Judiciary Chief Seyyed Ebrahim Raeisi said the country's enemies are bent on inflicting harm on Iran by launching channels such as the BBC's Farsi-language service.

"These channels obtain their information from Western intelligence and spy networks and (their) information is wrong," the official IRNA News Agency quoted him as saying.

Raeisi accused the BBC of "trying to prepare the grounds" for Western-backed anti-government network by portraying the situation inside Iran as tumultuous, Iran's Press-TV reported.

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