The jury of a UK court has returned a guilty verdict for a suspect gathering information on Iran International’s London headquarters for a possible terror attack.
Originally from Chechnya but residing in Austria, Magomed-Husejn Dovtaev (Mohammad-Hussein Dovtaev) was detained at Chiswick Business Park by officers from London’s Metropolitan Police Counter-Terrorism Command in February. He was charged with a single count of attempting to collect information “likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.” The final verdict will be issued by the court on Friday.
During the course of the trial, the police also released footage of Dovtaev gathering information about the security arrangements around the office building that housed Iran International and recording videos of the area. The police also released footage of the moment he was arrested.
Prosecutors said Dovtaev covertly filmed material on his phone in order to “identify vulnerabilities” in the media company’s security which could be exploited by others.
“This trial was a reminder of the threats journalists and news organizations face. Journalism is under attack across the world from those who seek to suppress media freedom,” Iran International said in a statement after the verdict was announced.
“We will not be cowed by threats. Our journalists will continue to provide the independent, uncensored news the people of Iran deserve,” stated the news and television network, which is the the most viewed foreign-based channel in Iran in the absence of free media in the country.
Expressing gratefulness to the Metropolitan Police for all their efforts to ensure the safety of Iran International journalists, the channel said, “Today’s verdict sends a clear message that the UK remains a bastion of free speech where threats against journalists will not be tolerated.”
Prosecutor Nicholas de la Poer told London’s Old Bailey on Monday that Iran International became a target for reprisals following its reporting on the death in custody of Mahsa Amini in Iran last year and subsequent protests in the country. Iran’s minister of intelligence later declared Iran International a terrorist organization, de la Poer said, which meant its employees “became targets for violent reprisals”.
In November 2022, Volant Media, the parent company of Iran International, said that two of its journalists had been notified of direct threats. It said in a statement the Metropolitan Police had formally notified both journalists that these threats represented an imminent, credible and significant risk to their lives and those of their families. Following the significant escalation in Iranian state-backed threats and advice from the London Metropolitan Police, Iran International TV announced in February that it reluctantly and temporarily closed its London studios and moved broadcasting to Washington DC. After months of hiatus in broadcasting from the UK, the network relaunched operations from a new London building in September.
Faced with nationwide antigovernment protests since mid-September, the Islamic Republic has blamed foreign-based Persian broadcasters such as the BBC Persian and Iran International of “fomenting unrest”, while all media in the country are under tight government control and present protesters as “rioters” and “terrorists”. According to Iran’s Intelligence Minister Esmail Khatib, the Islamic Republic regards Iran International as “a terrorist organization.” He has stated that its staff and anyone affiliated with the channel will be pursued by the Ministry of Intelligence all over the globe, reiterating threats to “punish all those” who had a role in popular protests against the regime, wherever they might be.