UK Police Release Footage Of Man Gathering Intel On Iran International

The UK police have released footage of a detained suspect gathering information on Iran International's headquarters as his trial unfolds in London.

Magomed-Husejn Dovtaev (Mohammad-Hussein Dovtaev), 31, originally from Chechnya but residing in Austria, was detained at Chiswick Business Park by officers from London’s Metropolitan Police Counter-Terrorism Command in February.

According to prosecutors, he tried to take photos and videos of the security arrangements around the office building that housed Iran International and send the intel to a third party. He is charged with a single count of attempting to collect information "likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism." He has pleaded not guilty. The trial is expected to conclude next week.

During the fourth day of his trial on Thursday, the Metropolitan Police released footage of Dovtaev as he arrived at London's airport, where he took a taxi directly to the Chiswick Park near the former Iran International headquarters. Donning a black jacket and baseball cap while his face was covered with a mask, he approached the entrance of Chiswick Park and surveyed the security details of the building's entrance and its surroundings.

According to prosecutors and the police, Dovtaev also engaged in a conversation with one of the building's guards and introduced himself as a tourist visiting a friend. The guard asked him to stay away from the building, but he continued to wander in the vicinity. The prosecutor believes that he used his mobile phone camera to record images of the building and its surroundings. Later, two other guards became suspicious and called the police who detained him at the scene.

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".

"The prosecution does not suggest that (Dovtaev's) purpose on Feb. 11 was to carry out such an attack or that it was intended that he would participate in an attack on a further date," de la Poer said. He added that Dovtaev went to Iran International's headquarters, "no doubt acting on the instructions of others, "Dovtaev's visit "demonstrates that planning by others was already under way", de la Poer said, adding that videos pre-dating Feb. 11 of Iran International's headquarters and security protection had been saved to his phone.

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.

Political commentator Ali-Hossein Ghazizadeh told Iran International Thursday that Dovtaev’s operation is just a part of a wider effort by the Islamic Republic to target Iran International and its journalists. In addition to Dovtaev’s case, there are many other reports released by the British police about plans orchestrated by the agents of the Islamic Republic, he added. According to Ghazizadeh, recruiting field agents from other countries to gather intel on possible targets or hit operations is the modus operandi of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard’s intelligence apparatus, especially under its former chief Hossein Taeb.

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