Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence Active in Europe
Brussels – October 2017
Table of contents:
Disinformation Campaign to Tarnish the Image of the Democratic Opposition
At a time of heightened security, following the spate of deadly attacks in Europe by individuals indoctrinated with extremist ideologies, it is important to be vigilant toward the threats posed by Iranian spies who work in tandem with Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). I would like to draw your attention to a report about the activities of Iran’s Intelligence Ministry in Europe.
The report documents specific cases of spying investigated by European counter-intelligence services. Earlier this year, the High Court in Germany convicted an Iranian agent for spying on a German lawmaker and a French-Israeli economics professor, in a case bearing signs of what authorities described as “a clear indication of an assassination attempt.”
Another court in Germany convicted an Iranian agent for spying on the opposition movement. Iran’s secret service primarily targets exiles in Europe. In fact, as you will see in the report, Germany’s domestic intelligence service has pointed out in its latest annual report that the regime is heavily involved in spreading misinformation against its opponents and recruiting former opposition members for this purpose in Europe. The regime has in particular targeted lawmakers in many European countries with such misinformation in an attempt to tarnish the image of the dissidents. The theory behind this approach is if they can discredit the opposition, realpolitik would dictate compromising with the ruling theocracy.
Another very worrying development listed in the report is the recent assassination of an Iranian dissident TV executive in Istanbul.
You may be aware that the EU Council of Ministers in 1997 issued a declaration for the expulsion of all Iranian Intelligence operatives from European soil. That order came after a trial in Germany found Iran guilty of involvement in the assassination of four Kurdish dissidents in what became known as the Mykonos murders.
I encourage you to study this report.
President, International Committee in Search of Justice (ISJ)
Former Vice-President of the European Parliament (1999-2014)
Activities of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence in Europe
The activities of agents of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Europe date back many years. These agents have been operating under the direction of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS or VAJA in Farsi) or a branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), including its notorious Quds Force. Their activities include assassination of dissidents, espionage against opponents and spreading mass disinformation against the democratic opposition, similar to the methods used by the former Soviet KGB.
Outside of its borders, the regime exports its brand of Islamic fundamentalism while training, arming and funding groups responsible for terrorist atrocities across the Middle East, including in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon.
Since the inception of the clerical regime in Iran in 1979, dozens of Iranian dissidents have been assassinated in Europe. They include representatives of the political coalition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in Switzerland and Italy, Iranian Kurdish leaders in Germany and Austria, as well as other dissidents in France.
On 29 April 2017, Saeed Karimian, a 45-year-old London-based Iranian television executive and chairman of the GEM satellite TV network, was assassinated in Turkey where his TV station had a branch. In January 2017, a revolutionary court in Tehran had condemned him in absentia to a six-year prison term for spreading propaganda and acting against national security. In May 2017, Turkish media reported that two men suspected in the assassination had been arrested with fake passports in Montenegro on their way to Iran .
In July 2016, Maysam Panahi, an MOIS agent, was sentenced in Germany to two and half years for spying on the NCRI and on the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI or MEK). According to German court papers, he was connected to a veteran intelligence officer of the MOIS. Panahi was a former affiliate of the PMOI who had left the movement and was later recruited by Iranian Intelligence.
On 25 March 2017, Mustufa Haidar Syed-Naqfi, a Pakistani national, was convicted in Germany of spying for Iran, specifically of searching out potential targets for attacks by the Revolutionary Guards. Syed-Naqfi was sentenced to four years and three months in prison “for working for a foreign intelligence service”, a spokeswoman for Berlin’s superior court said. The court found he had spied “against Germany and another NATO member”, France, for the Quds Force. Syed-Naqfi compiled dossiers on possible targets – namely a German lawmaker who is the former head of a German-Israeli organisation, and a French-Israeli economics professor.
Reports by European Security Agencies
In its latest annual report published in July 2017, Germany’s domestic intelligence service, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, or ‘BfV’), stated that the PMOI and NCRI are the primary targets of spying activity by the Iranian MOIS.
Excerpts from the 4 July 2017 Report by the German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz or BfV):
Intelligence Services of the Islamic Republic of Iran
The main task of the Iranian intelligence services remains the spying-on and combating of opposition movements at home and abroad. In addition, the Iranian services in the Western world collect information in the fields of politics, business and science.
Main objectives of the MOIS
The main entity that conducts activities against Germany is the Ministry of Intelligence (VAJA, mostly abbreviated as MOIS). The main focus of MOIS is in particular on the “People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran” (PMOI or MEK) and its political arm, the “National Council of Resistance of Iran” (NCRI). At the same time, intelligence activities at home and abroad reflect the continued interest of MOIS in the areas of foreign and security policy.
The Iranian intelligence services are central instruments for the political leadership to secure dominance. As a result, the Iranian opposition will continue to be the focus of the MOIS… This attitude has not changed since the agreement reached between Iran and the West on the settlement of the nuclear conflict.
A more detailed assessment of Iran’s activities in Germany was contained in the annual report of the BfV in North Rhine-Westphalia , Germany’s most populous state, which was published on 4 July 2016. That report said that increased activities of the MOIS in Germany against the MEK and NCRI in 2014 had continued in 2015. The core of their activities was spreading disinformation about the PMOI. The report also refers to a number of suspects who were arrested for spying on the PMOI and NCRI. All of the suspects were previously affiliated with the PMOI and were later recruited by the MOIS, the report said.
Previous reports by the Dutch Intelligence and Security Service confirm the same:
Excerpts of April 2013 annual report by the General Intelligence and Security Service of the Netherlands (Algemene Inlichtingen- en Veiligheidsdienst or AIVD)
Jaarverslag AIVD 2012
The AIVD has also noted that the Iranian government is unabatedly active in its fight against the opposition movement Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK). It has been found that the Iranian intelligence service operates a European network that is also active in the Netherlands. This network consists of former MEK members recruited by the Iranian intelligence service.
They have been given the task of negatively influencing public opinion about the MEK through lobbying, publications and anti-MEK meetings. They also gather information about the MEK and its (deemed) members for the Iranian intelligence service.
Excerpts of July 2012 annual report by the General Intelligence and Security Service of the Netherlands (Algemene Inlichtingen- en Veiligheidsdienst or AIVD)
Jaarverslag AIVD 2011
In 2011, the AIVD has observed that the Iranian Ministry of Information and Security is uninterruptedly active in lobbying against the Iranian Opposition Movement Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) in Netherlands.
The Iranian intelligence service is providing management and financing for the efforts that are aimed at demonizing the MEK both in the media and among the politicians.
Agents Introduced as “Former Members” of Opposition
Recruiting former affiliates of the oppositions seems to be a major operation of the MOIS. The benefits of employing such people are twofold; first, their information is valuable for mounting terrorist attacks; second, they are useful for propaganda purposes as “former members.”
The case of Masoud Dalili (Bahman Afrazeh) is a telling example. He was a former affiliate of the PMOI who had left Camp Ashraf, formerly home to several thousand PMOI members in Iraq. He was subsequently recruited by the MOIS. He was debriefed by the Quds Force in Iraq, who then used him as a guide for the commando-type attack on Camp Ashraf on 1 September 2013, which left 52 members of the PMOI dead and seven taken hostage. Dalili was also killed by the commandos at the end of the operation; they burnt his face to avoid his being recognized.
The Iranian regime has also systematically used such individuals for its disinformation campaign to tarnish the image of the PMOI and the political coalition NCRI. For this purpose, these individuals have been sent to Europe as refugees while they are closely working with the Iranian regime’s embassies or are directly in contact with the MOIS or the Quds Force.
The disinformation is focused on the PMOI. Those involved have set up a number of bogus associations and approach parliamentarians in various European countries, pretending to be opponents of the regime and human rights activists. In most European countries, they have been essentially rejected by the parliamentarians.
For the past three decades, the European Parliament has adopted numerous resolutions on the human rights situation in Iran, and many MEPs have expressed support for the democratic opposition. Therefore, the Iranian regime has always been concerned about the European Parliament’s positions and has tried hard to mislead MEPs both about the situation in Iran and the status of the PMOI.
Visits of “Former Members” to European Parliament
In May 2017, a number of individuals visited the European Parliament with the aim of spreading disinformation about the opposition. One individual, Massoud Khodabandeh, introduced himself as “Director of Middle East Strategy Consultants, UK.” Interestingly, no such company exists in the United Kingdom. A company with such a name was set up several years ago as a cover for his activities, but was dissolved in 2013. Another attendee was Ali Akbar Rastgou who claimed to be a former PMOI member. He has never been a member of the PMOI, according to the group, which says that he was a sympathizer of the movement more than 30 years ago in Germany, but without any direct connection. Subsequently, the abovementioned visitors published photographs of three MEPs who they claimed had organized the meeting which they attended.
Long before, there were similar attempts in other European countries where individuals had approached parliamentarians to spread their propaganda. In November 2005, Massoud Khodabandeh and his wife Anne Singleton attempted to hold a meeting at the British Parliament to spread misinformation against the MEK. They were ultimately not permitted to hold the meeting, because of disquiet amongst Parliamentarians. Lord Corbett of Castle Vale, then Chairman of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom, said in a statement on 9 November 2005:
“The British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom has been informed that known agents of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry known as Iran Interlink, a suspected group related to the mullahs’ regime, are supposed to have a conference on November 10, 2005 in Fielden House in Westminster. These people have been dispatched to justify the Iranian regime President’s remarks inciting terrorism … It is unbelievable that those who use terror inside the country and incite it outside the country, think that any sane person would listen to them…Their hysteric accusations about the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran are indicative of the success of the Iranian resistance in revealing the nuclear deception of the mullahs, their responsibility for killing British military forces in Iraq and increasing human rights abuses.”
Some individuals with previous links to the PMOI (MEK) who recently visited the European Parliament to demonise the opposition and publicized their actions on internet: (see Annex 1 for backgrounds)
Davood Baghervand-Arshad (Germany)
Ghorbanali Hossein Nejad (France)
Gholamreza Sadeghi-Jebelli (Canada)
Ali Akbar Rastgou (Germany)
Mohammad Hosein Sobhani (Germany)
Massoud Khodabandeh (UK)
Batool Soltani Sedeh (Germany)
Meeting of Iranian agents with Lebanese Shiite cleric El-Husseini in Paris – July 2017 (source: Facebook)
Iranian Regime’s Lobbies
The Iranian regime spends huge amounts of money on lobbying on both sides of the Atlantic. It even provides financial aid to certain universities, ostensibly for research, via fake charity foundations.
One such foundation is the US based Alavi Foundation. On 16 September 2013, a United States district court in New York ordered the forfeiture of a 36-story midtown Manhattan office building owned by the Alavi Foundation, as the result of violations of the Iranian Transactions Regulations promulgated under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), and federal money-laundering statutes. The Court found that the partners of the building’s owner, the Alavi Foundation and Assa Corp., had committed IEEPA violations and money-laundering offenses. As of June 2017, court proceedings are underway to seize the rest of the Alavi Foundation’s assets on the same charge.
The regime’s lobby campaign focuses on a number of dubious claims, such as the MEK is a cult, has no support among Iranians, and is an isolated fringe group.
Iran and its lobby relentlessly claim that there is no alternative to the status quo, the opposition is fragmented, and neither the MEK nor the NCRI coalition is a viable alternative. The strategy is quite clear and simple: absent a viable alternative, realpolitik will dictate that the West continue its policy of appeasement, which would inevitably lead to accepting the regime’s regional hegemony. The key is the claim that there is no alternative to the regime, i.e. no viable, united opposition.
Considering the regime’s nefarious activities, including ongoing human rights violations in Iran, sponsorship of terrorism, active role in the suppression of the Syrian people, and support for Hezbollah, it is impossible to defend it directly. Therefore, even Tehran’s lobbies act in a more sophisticated manner. They criticize the regime on some aspects, or at least distance themselves from it on some issues, but unanimously demonize the organized opposition, namely the MEK, making dealing with the regime the inevitable reality.
These campaigns involve staggering sums of money, spent to recruit ex-members or supporters of the groups, set up front organizations and associations, and even attempts to bribe experts to make false reports or statements against the MEK.
On 5 July 2010, the Canadian daily Toronto Sun reported one such case:
“John Thompson, who heads up the Mackenzie Institute, a security minded think-tank, says China isn’t alone in trying to gain influence. Thompson, who is often called on by media outlets to offer up analysis, says he was offered $80,000 by a man tied to Iran’s mission in Canada. ‘They wanted me to publish a piece on the Mujahedin-e khalq,’ he said. ‘Iran is trying to get other countries to label it as a terrorist cult.’ Thompson says he turned down the offer.”
United States military officers who were previously responsible for the protection of the PMOI in Camp Ashraf in Iraq from 2003 to 2008, have later come out publicly rebuking the efforts of the MOIS to wilfully spread misinformation against the Iranian opposition. Colonel Leo McCloskey (retired), who was the JIATF Commander at Ashraf (2008), said in a speech in Paris on 24 March 2012 :
“Today I am also a former soldier. During my 13 months in Ashraf, I had the responsibility for the protection of the people of Ashraf… In 2004 to 2008, approximately 300 decided to go back to Iran. Very few were ever heard from again, but I can tell you about one person that we did hear from again, and that was Batoul Sultani (Batool Soultani). If you haven’t heard that name, she was a resident of Ashraf who left and went back to Iran.
“Within a month or two after she left, I got a frantic call in the middle of the night from one of our police stations outside of Ashraf, saying that Ms. Sultani was back in Iraq with an Iranian passport. And she told me a story, through my interpreter, that she had been brought back to Iran and was being forced to come back to Iraq to protect her family. She said that she had escaped from her captors in Baghdad, and wanted to come back to Camp Ashraf.
“Well, shortly thereafter she did show up back at Ashraf, in protest, saying that her husband was being held captive by the people of Ashraf. I personally interviewed her husband, as I have interviewed thousands of other people in Camp Ashraf, along with family members. She was there at the behest of the Quds Force as an agent of the Iranian government. I can tell you that the people of Ashraf are there because they want to be there. Like all organizations, some people do want to leave, and people were allowed to leave by the leadership and by the residents of Ashraf.”
A Pentagon-commissioned report prepared by the Federal Research Division of the US Library of Congress in December 2012 explains in detail the Iranian MOIS’s misinformation campaign against the MEK. Below are excerpts of the report:
IRAN’S MINISTRY OF INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY: A PROFILE
A Report Prepared by the Federal Research Division, Library of Congress
under an Interagency Agreement with the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office’s Irregular Warfare Support Program
Methods of Operation and Tactics used by the MOIS
The Ministry of Intelligence and Security operates through a variety of methods and tactics. Agents may operate undercover as diplomats in Iranian embassies or in other occupations in companies such as Iran Air, branches of Iranian banks, or even in private businesses. It is thought that many Iranians who are employed in foreign educational organizations such as universities also may work for MOIS; because they have to go back to Iran often—perhaps for immigration issues or scholarships given by the Iranian government or for other reasons—they may cooperate with MOIS. To transfer money for operations, MOIS usually uses state-controlled banks with branches in foreign countries.
Lebanese Hezbollah and the Quds Force are also organizationally linked to MOIS. Support for Hezbollah has been one of the main objectives of Iran’s foreign policy. To counter threats from Israel, Iran provides Hezbollah with logistical and material support and uses Hezbollah as a proxy in Iran’s intelligence operations. Such support is usually delivered under Iranian diplomatic auspices. An assessment of Iran’s intelligence services in the 1990s stated: “The largest European Al-Qods [Quds] facility was in the Iranian embassy in Germany. The embassy’s third floor had twenty Qods [Quds] employees coordinating terrorist activities in Europe… Recently, major operational centers were established in Bulgaria, and Al-Qods [Quds] has attempted to establish another operational facility in Milan.”
Most Iranian foreign officers and diplomats have worked with MOIS, the IRGC, or other security agencies. MOIS works in coordination with the Foreign Ministry in operations carried out abroad, using Iranian embassies for collecting intelligence. MOIS and Quds Force agents receive diplomatic passports through the embassies. Moreover, the Quds Force is believed to coordinate with the Ministry of Intelligence and Security through foreign embassies, charities, and cultural centers in targeted countries.
MOIS infiltrates Iranian communities outside of Iran using a variety of methods. For instance, a society called “Supporting Iranian Refugees” in Paris is used to recruit Iranian asylum seekers to spy on Iranians in France. MOIS also has agents who abduct individuals abroad, return them to Iran, and then imprison or kill them. MOIS’s tactics of penetrating and sowing discord within the opposition abroad are discussed in an article on a Web site affiliated with the current Iranian government. The article (“How Do Iranian Intelligence Forces Operate Outside of the Country?”) discusses how Iran uses different mechanisms to penetrate the foreign-based opposition. MOIS uses its former members and/or people willing to cooperate with the ministry. They are sent to prison temporarily and become known as activists opposed to the Islamic Republic. After some time, no one questions their previous political activities; being a political prisoner is enough to be acknowledged as an opposition figure. Activists abroad may help get such a prisoner out of the country with the assistance of an international organization, or MOIS may send the prisoner abroad, calling him/her an “escaped dissenter.” This mechanism of releasing political prisoners to go abroad sows mistrust within the opposition in exile.
Khodabandeh and Singleton
The recruitment of a British subject, Anne Singleton, and her Iranian husband, Masoud Khodabandeh, provides a relevant example of how MOIS coerces non-Iranians to cooperate. She worked with MEK in the late 1980s. Masoud Khodabandeh and his brother Ibrahim were both members of MEK at the time. In 1996 Masoud Khodabandeh decided to leave the organization. Later, he married Anne Singleton. Soon after their marriage, MOIS forced them to cooperate by threatening to confiscate Khodabandeh’s mother’s extensive property in Tehran. Singleton and Khodabandeh then agreed to work for MOIS and spy on MEK. In 2002 Singleton met in Tehran with MOIS agents who were interested in her background. She agreed to cooperate with MOIS to save her brother-in-law’s life—he was still a member of MEK at the time. During her stay in Tehran, she received training from MOIS. After her return to England, she launched the iran-interlink.org Web site in the winter of 2002. After she made many trips to Iran and Singapore—the country where the agency contacts its foreign agents—MEK became doubtful of Singleton and Khodabandeh’s loyalty to the organization. In 2004 Singleton finally met her brother-in-law, Ibrahim, who was sent from Syria to Iran after the Syrians arrested him (it appears that Syrians closely cooperate with MOIS). Eventually, MOIS forced him to cooperate as well.
After Ahmadinejad became president (in 2005), MOIS re-energized its Foreign Directorate for the recruitment of foreigners. Sizable budgets allow MOIS not only to recruit jihadists in Iraq and Afghanistan but also to hire spies and agents to conduct disinformation campaigns. The method of recruitment for foreigners is almost the same as for Iranians. MOIS agents identify potential candidates and then approach them. If the individuals respond positively, the Iranian embassy in their respective countries of residence contact them and, before sending them to Iran, holds an informal interview under some pretext such as a visit or seminar. When candidates are in Iran, MOIS or the Quds Force examines their potential as agents. Candidates willing to cooperate are sent to bases around Tehran or to Qum for training. MOIS recruits its foreign agents mainly from Muslim countries, specifically Iraq and Lebanon, and then from other Shi’a countries. MOIS has centers of recruitment for foreigners in Persian Gulf countries, Yemen, Sudan, Lebanon, Palestine, Europe, East and South Asia, and North and South America (especially the Tri-border Area with its large population of Lebanese).
In the hope of demonizing its organized opposition, the Iranian regime has gone so far as to set up state-controlled “non-governmental organisations” at the United Nations Human Rights Council to disseminate false information about the PMOI. This action has led to protests by other non-Iranian NGOs at the Human Rights Council over the abuse of the NGO framework and mechanism.
On 15 May 2017, three NGOs with consultative status at the Human Rights Council submitted a written statement which was distributed among all UN General Assembly member states on 24 May 2017. The statement said in part:
Written statements that are published during the UN Human Rights Council sessions are an opportunity for the civil society of every country to inform the international community about the concerns and cases of human rights violation in their country. However, the situation is different when it comes to the Iranian civil society.
The reports of former Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Dr. Ahmad Shaheed, indicated that in the Islamic Republic of Iran, freedom of association does not exist and NGOs independent of state control cannot be formed. Since the civil society in Iran does not enjoy the freedom of expression (as exemplified by the cases of Sattar Beheshti and Narges Mohammadi) the Iranian government has resorted to creating NGOs in order to whitewash its systematic and widespread violation of human rights by abusing the NGOs’ consultative status and other facilities at their disposal to tarnish the image of the democratic opposition and Iranian independent NGOs who are in exile.
One of these so-called NGOs supported by the Government of Islamic Republic of Iran is the Association for the Defence of Victims of Terrorism (ADVT) that apparently has no other mission except demonizing and disseminating false information about the best-organized and main opposition group calling for democracy in Iran, named the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, PMOI (or as they say MKO).
The ADVT and similar ones that have come from Iran to participate in the Human Rights Council, in addition to disseminating false information and news, engage in intimidating and identifying Iranian human rights activists on the sidelines of the session, and under the supervision of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence, which is responsible for suppressing the opposition, intimidate the families of these activists in Iran and pressure them.
Germany Jails Iranian Intelligence Agent for Spying on Exiles
As previously mentioned, in July 2016, Maysam Panahi, an MOIS agent, was sentenced in Germany to two and half years for spying on the MEK and NCRI. According to German court papers he was connected to a veteran MOIS officer. Panahi was formerly an affiliate of the MEK who had left the group and was later recruited by the MOIS.
According to evidence revealed at the court, Panahi worked as a spy for at least three years and received payments on at least 30 occasions from a senior MOIS officer called Sajjad, totalling 28,600 Euros. He was also engaged in recruiting members for the MOIS’s spy ring. He admitted that he had provided sensitive information to Sajjad about Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty in Iraq, where thousands of PMOI members had been residing.
According to witness testimony and court evidence, which corroborates reports by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the Iranian regime’s Intelligence Ministry created secret networks in Germany, attempting to spy on and spread misinformation to discredit the MEK.
The hearing showed that the individuals who were recruited by the MOIS exploited their refugee status to guarantee their residency in Germany and thereafter work for the MOIS in European countries in exchange for money. These individuals travelled to Iran with the support of the regime’s embassies in order to receive training and briefings. They received their salaries as cash payments or via the Western Union money transfer systems. According to court documents, despite holding the status of a refugee, Panahi had secretly travelled to Iran to receive espionage training. (Read more in Annex 2)
By Panahi’s own admission, the MOIS drains these mercenaries of information, in particular about the construction and the residents of Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty, where PMOI members were residing. From 2009-2016 these camps came under at least eight military and rocket attacks, leaving 141 killed and more than 1,400 injured. The Iranian regime’s affiliated terrorists and militias have used that information to massacre Iranian refugees who were previously at the two camps.
Lobby Against the Opposition at the European Parliament
Members of the European Parliament who sympathise with PMOI and NCRI have launched many campaigns on human rights violations in Iran. There have always been conflicting views on Iran and its opposition in the European Parliament. On one occasion, this turned into a public confrontation. In 2008, following the decision by the UK High Court to dismiss terrorism allegations against the MEK, the head of Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran expressed regret at the court decision. A number of MEPs responded to her position in an open letter on 23 July 2008, excerpts of which follow:
On 17 July 2008, Ms. [Angelika] Beer distributed a letter about the recent victories of the main Iranian opposition, the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI/MEK). In it, she seemed expressly troubled about the removal of the PMOI from the list of proscribed organisations in the United Kingdom, and warned their colleagues not to “misunderstand” the UK decision.
The letter’s publication date (15 July), less than seventy days after the UK Court of Appeal ruling and three weeks after the unanimous votes in both houses of the country’s Parliament, which resulted in the removal of the PMOI from the UK terrorist list , only serves to reveal the extent of its writer’s apprehension, who cannot help but hopelessly watch investments on making deals with the religious dictators of Iran completely squandered.
On paper, she acknowledges “the lack of democracy, the grave violation of human rights and the authoritarian elements” of the Iranian regime. But the surprising degree of her enmity towards Iran’s leading opposition firmly seats her shoulder-to-shoulder with those “authoritarian elements” in practice. We all remember quite well that last December while Ms. Beer was busy carrying out stage-managed meetings in Tehran with associations affiliated with the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), the mullahs hanged six prisoners in various Iranian cities. In an interview with the BBC Persian service, she blamed this situation on “foreign pressure.” Her statement was tantamount to whitewashing the mullahs’ reprehensible crimes. To cement her disgraceful policy of appeasement, she also reportedly claimed, on behalf of the EP, that the EP’s policy “toward [PMOI] is to reject and avoid contacts with it.” Why? What has the PMOI done in the eyes of Ms. Beer that makes it worse than a regime which has subjugated an entire population for nearly 30 years? ….
We do not intend to defend the PMOI here, or to respond to the allegations made in the aforementioned letter, which in our view do not merit a reply anyway. We simply wish to address the unjustifiable manner by which the letter’s writers have joined hands with the cruel dictators in Iran to further suppress and demonise the legitimate opposition against the mullahs. We reiterate that a regime which has executed more than 100.000 of its political opponents, officially denies the Holocaust and calls for the elimination of Israel, is not legitimate and stands against peace and all democratic values that our Parliament is established to safeguard.
Some of us took part in the large rally on 28 June, where 70 thousand Iranians gathered in Villepinte, north Paris, to express support for the PMOI and the third option it represents. The third option rejects both appeasement and military intervention and stands for a democratic change in Iran. The vast dimension of this rally alone, supported by over 100 MEPs, suffices to contradict Ms. Beer’s claim that the PMOI is an isolated “psycho-sect” with no public support. No logic or impartial observer would back the claim that the opinion of thousands of exiled Iranians is diametrically opposed to those of the people inside Iran. The thousands of mainly middle-class Iranians we saw in Villepinte on 28 June, closely mirrored millions of Iranians inside Iran who, even according to the regime’s own figures, widely boycotted the parliamentary elections in March….
The letter refers to some “former members” of the PMOI who were invited to this Parliament last year to testify. It is worth noting that one of these “former members”, Mohammad Sobhani – a well-known agent of the regime’s Intelligence Ministry – was invited by Ms. Beer in February 2007, and sat in a panel with her. He was later arrested by French police after a knife-wielding attack against Iranian refugees at a meeting in southern Paris on 17 June 2007….
In December 2007, an EP-Iran delegation, headed by Ms Angelika Beer, travelled to Iran ostensibly to review and assess human rights violations in Iran. The intentions of the visit can be better seen from the regime’s press reports. As part of its efforts to expose the Parliamentarians to misinformation about the MEK, the Iranian regime’s Ministry of Intelligence took Ms Beer and those accompanying her to the office of one of its associations, called “Edalat”. On 26 December 2007, IRNA reported:
“Members of the Edalat Association recently held a meeting with a European Parliament delegation visiting their office, and expressed concern about the recurrence of a humanitarian tragedy by the MKO [MEK] cult. Ms Angelika Beer and Baroness Nicholson who had attended the meeting conveyed their sympathy to the victims of terror and reminded that the inclusion of the PMOI in the EU terrorist lists was done precisely because of the EU governments’ knowledge of terrorism and this terrorist organisation.”
The MOIS-affiliated Nejat Society website (Nejat Society, Tehran, December 12, 2007) reported the visit as follows:
EP delegation met with Nejat Society in Iran
“On Sunday December 9, 2007, a European parliamentary delegation in Tehran met with members and associates of the Nejat Society in its office in Tehran. The delegation headed by Ms. Angelika Beer, MEP from Germany (and chairwoman of the delegation for relations with Iran at the European Parliament), included MEPs from various parties and countries…
At the end of the meeting, Ms. Beer thanked Nejat Society for providing her with information about the People’s Mojahedin Organisation. Documents and information about the PMOI were handed to each member of the delegation.”
The following has been excerpted from a news article about some of the conflicts among members of the EP-Iran delegation after an attempt by several MEPs to prevent a critical MEP from joining the delegation:
“Iranian Embassy” inside the European Parliament
By Frank Demeyer | Brussels
6 April 2012
The meeting last week of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iran was the scene of a rare confrontation between the pro-Iran faction headed by the Greens group and those wanting to see a fundamental change.
At the issue was the election of a vice-president of the Delegation, a seat left vacant since a German member holding it from the largest political group, the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), recently left the parliament.
According to the d’Hont rule – a method maintaining the proportionality of seats per size of each political group – the post should go to a Member of European Parliament (MEP) from the EPP. Josef Daul, the EPP Chairman from France, had officially proposed the Italian Potito Salatto for the seat.
During the February session of the “Iran Delegation”, Belgian Isabelle Durant from the Greens group and three other MEPs had requested a secret ballot, a rare act since there was only one candidate and thus no competition. But the reason became clear when the result was announced. Mr Salatto witnessed a majority of votes against his candidacy in something seen as an unprecedented “coup”.
The reason why MEPs chose to vote against Salatto became clear in last week’s meeting when the new Iranian Ambassador Mahmoud Barimani was invited to the Delegation. The ambassador had opposed Mr Salatto’s candidacy as he considered him too critical of the Islamic Republic.
The Iran Delegation and its pro-Tehran activity goes back to last decade when the Iranian Embassy in Brussels worked hard to establish a formal delegation for relations with the European Parliament. Formed when Ahmadinejad took office, the Delegation has worked hard to undermine international sanctions on Iran and to organise trips to Tehran.
Another surprise guest at the Delegation’s meeting last week was Rouzbeh Parsi, brother of Trita Parsi, a well-known advocate of rapprochement with Islamic Republic who heads Tehran’s main lobby group in Washington called NIAC. Trita just lost a court case in Washington DC against Iranian exiles whom he had accused of defaming him as a lobby for the regime.
Like his brother, Rouzbeh who also attends NIAC’s meetings in USA, keeps a close contact with Iranian embassy in Paris and has obtained an influential job in EU’s Iran policy making circles. Since June 2009, he has been a Research Fellow at the Paris based European Union Institute for Security. He advocates increased trade and engagement with Iran despite EU’s new policy of hardening sanctions while dissuading support for the real opposition.
During last week’s meeting, Mr Mario Mauro, leader of the Italian EPP group, angrily accused the Iran Delegation to have become “Iranian Embassy’s representation inside the European Parliament.”
The main person directing the campaign against Mr Salatto is a German Greens’ staff member, Sabine Meyer, whom observers have called the “de-facto leader” of the Delegation.
In December 2009, the EP-Iran delegation invited a “former PMOI member from Camp Ashraf Iraq”, Ms Batool Soltani and gave her the floor to speak out against and demonise the PMOI. At the end of the debate, MEP Geoffrey Van Orden, a senior British Conservative, criticised the event: “I am not a fan of the PMOI, but I have a nose for Government-sponsored propaganda and I regret this Delegation is becoming a tool for Tehran’s misinformation.”
During a conference in Paris in 2012, Lt. Col. Leo McCloskey who served as part of the US protection force at Camp Ashraf, revealed how Ms Soltani had been recruited by Iran after she left Iraq and sent back to Ashraf “at the behest of the Quds (Jerusalem) Force – a branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, as an agent of the Iranian government.”
Below are excerpts of another article that sheds light on how the Iranian Embassy in Brussels is believed to run its activities in the European Parliament through some friendly EP-Staff:
IRAN’S AMBITIONS TO SWAY EUROPE
26 May 2014
By David N. Neumann
A recent development that topped the headlines of Iranian media for several weeks but did not receive much attention in the West, was a resolution adopted by the European Parliament in Brussels in early April condemning violations of human rights in Iran and stressing that an entree visa must immediately be given to Ahmad Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, while declaring the presidential elections non-democratic.
The Iranian authorities, from the topmost officials to Friday prayer leaders and other clergies furiously condemned this resolution and branded it as intervention. A long-time planned visit by an Iranian parliamentary delegation to the EU Parliament in April was cancelled in protest and Iran announced that any European parliamentarian who intended to visit the country would be fingerprinted at the airport.
What the general public were unaware of was that this resolution initially had been tabled by a Euro MP who is a strong advocate of ‘rapprochement’ with Iran. The original text drafted by Socialist Group adviser Eldar Mamedov, in coordination with Iranian Embassy in Brussels was carefully worded to include some vague criticisms on human rights but to be entirely in favour of Rouhani and full engagement with Iran. But when the common “compromise” text was put to the vote in parliament’s foreign affairs committee in March, the entire report was rejected by a majority which is extremely rare.
The dismissal of that report was a major defeat for the pro-Iran lobby in Europe and the committee decided to re-write the text. The final resolution adopted by a great majority in the plenary on 3rd April included specific remarks that was not at all adored by the Iranian authorities.
Shouting out at European Parliament for the adoption of this resolution, remained a key topic in state-run Iranian media for more than two weeks. The Revolutionary Guards commander made a headline “The European Union is worse than a four-legged animal.”
After this very heated reaction to the EP resolution, the Iran lobby in Europe panicked and tried to calm down the Ayatollahs. Recently the same adviser who had drafted the initial pro-Iran resolution, has written several articles and even got a full page interview in official Iranian media where he focuses on attacking the Iranian opposition, accusing them for being behind this “sabotage.”
A former member of the Iranian diplomatic corps now in exile showed this author a memo by Iranian foreign ministry last year indicating that together with a (now former) female Spanish socialist MEP, Mamedov is “actively working to lobby and defend the Islamic Republic.” The memo states “He has a very positive attitude to the Islamic Republic and it is easy to pursue our line with him especially in confronting the MKO (MEK) in European Parliament.”
Mr Mamedov has travelled to Iran at least four times since 2011. He coordinated the visit of the socialist group delegation, to Iran in October 2013. He also participated in another EP visit to Tehran in December 2013. Earlier he was invited by Iranian authorities for a private tour to Iranian cities including to his native province of Azerbaijan together with his uncle. In this trip he was told how to pursue their agenda in Europe especially to assist their plans to destabilize the neighbouring government of Bahrain, but that plan was later put on hold by Iran. His contact in the Iranian embassy, first counsellor Abbas Golriz, usually chooses to meet him in cafés in Brussels to avoid undesired attention.
Systematic Lobbying of Tehran Against the Opposition
The systematic anti-PMOI lobbying by the Iranian regime has been going on for several decades. Below are some examples:
British Parliament delegation visiting Iran in 2007
The Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee of the British Parliament, Mr Mike Gapes, said in a public hearing on 28 November 2007 after returning from Tehran: “When we went to Iran I certainly and I think my colleagues, were struck by the number of times that the Iranians wanted to raise the issue of what they call the MKO (MEK) terrorist organization or clique or some other term of that kind to a level of almost of obsession that it was on their program, they wanted us to talk about it and they raised it in lots of different contexts.”
Lord Corbett of Castle Vale warns his colleagues about Iranian propagandists, 2008
For more than a decade the Chairman of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom, Lord Corbett consistently warned his colleagues to be vigilant against the pro-Tehran lobby working under bogus guises.
In a 28 January 2008 letter, Lord Corbett wrote: “Whenever an MP or Peer expresses support for the goals of the Resistance, they are bombarded with misinformation about it, either by the Iranian Embassy in London or front organisations and individuals who pose as disaffected former members of the PMOI. Some pose as NGOs, including Nejat Society, Peyvand and Aawa Association. The Iranian regime also uses numerous websites to spread misinformation against the PMOI.”
In another letter, dated 15 December 2008, Lord Corbett attracted the attention of his colleagues to a group of MOIS agents from “Nejat” association: “The four Nejat agents travelled to here from Iran, and the Khodabandeh duo were in Tehran several months ago. Their instructions are to step up a campaign to tarnish the image of the Resistance, and they are directing their attacks against the PMOI members in Ashraf City, Iraq……. I have been informed that these agents have sought access to the Palace of Westminster, and this would have implications for Members’ safety. We should not allow agents of a terrorist-sponsoring state to step foot on Parliamentary grounds. In 2005 Iranian intelligence agents tried to gain access to Parliament, but were prevented from entering by officers acting on information that they were on the payroll of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS). They were also refused entry into the United States after Congressional colleagues informed the Homeland Security Department.”
Steve McCabe, Member of British Parliament, 2011
In a revealing letter on 14 March 2011, Steve McCabe MP told his colleagues in the House of Commons: “You might be contacted by people purporting to be ordinary Iranians living in the UK and warning you not to support the PMOI. They might also suggest that you should meet Anne Singleton or Masoud Khodabandeh [both are agents of the Iranian regime but claim to be independent experts!!] to hear further arguments against supporting the opposition. I’m afraid this is a standard ploy of MOIS and the individuals they mention are actually their agents. You might also receive a barrage of emails (the House of Commons authorities have already intervened to deal with one of the more threatening emails) and phone calls as well as an expensive booklet produced by the Iranian Embassy. I’ve experienced this situation before as have a number of other members who have, over the years, supported the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom. I’ve found that a firm response usually persuades them that they won’t succeed in intimidating me or inhibiting my right to perform my parliamentary duties.”
Speaker of the Estonian Parliament, 2012
In November 2012, Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi visited the Parliament of Estonia at the invitation of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Following the visit, a letter by the Nejat association to the Speaker of the Parliament was published by MOIS websites. The Estonian MPs later said that in their struggle against Russian dominance they became quite familiar with such tactics and know well why Tehran is so nervous about Mrs Rajavi’s trip to Tallinn.
Spanish Senate, 2012
When the Spanish Senate extended an invitation to Mrs Rajavi to address a joint meeting of the Senate’s Foreign Affairs Equal Rights and Development committees in December 2012, the Iranian Embassy started a round of activities to stop the event. On the eve of the visit, the ruling Popular Party’s Senate Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs received a call at midnight on his cell phone from the Iranian Ambassador trying in vain to dissuade him from proceeding with the meeting.
Mr Remi Pagani, Mayor of Geneva, 2013
After Mrs Rajavi’s visit to Geneva at the invitation of Mr Remi Pagani, the Mayor of Geneva in March 2013, a letter which carried the signature of one MOIS agent known as Shahrooz Tajbakhsh was received by the Mayor. In this letter attempts were made to demonize the opposition and insist on getting an appointment from the Mayor for further persuasive explanations.
Senator Nele Lijnen, Chair of the Women’s Committee in the Belgian Senate, 2013
Following Mrs Rajavi’s visit to Brussels at the invitation of Belgian parliamentarians, Senator Lijnen’s office received a bizarre call on 9 April 2013 from a journalist in a Belgian fringe magazine, aggressively asking her the names of members of the “Belgian Committee for a Free Iran” and the reason for the committee’s invitation to Mrs Rajavi. The caller went beyond journalistic norms to tell the Senator that the NCRI had no support inside Iran and the parliamentarians should not lend the committee’s credibility to such an opposition group.
In response to such biased questions, Senator Lijnen wrote to him: “How strange that instead of asking us about the executions and killings in Iran which we have always condemned, you are questioning us about the opposition?… How do you know that this organization has no support inside Iran? Have you made a survey from Iranian people? And if so, do you really think that anyone in Iran would dare to express his or her support?”
Members of Germany’s Bundestag, 2013
A group of MOIS agents who appeared as members of AAWA association met with several members of the German Bundestag and a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official on 19 April 2013. Later their photographs and a report of the meetings in which they demonized the residents of Camp Liberty were published on websites affiliated with the MOIS disclosing the objective of the meeting as propaganda against the PMOI.
As confirmed by the latest reports of European security services, the Iranian Intelligence Services remain more than ever active on European soil; their methods range from intimidation and character assassination to physical elimination. Their main target is the Iranian democratic opposition and its supporters in the diaspora.
In 1997, after the assassination of four Iranian Kurdish dissidents in the Berlin Mykonos restaurant was found by the German Superior Court of Justice to be linked to Iranian authorities at the highest level , the EU decided to expel all Iranian intelligence agents from European Union Member States .
Given the current security situation in Europe, the renewed presence of many Iranian agents in Europe whose access to the EU has been facilitated after the nuclear agreement, and the worsening security situation especially in light of the recent murder of an Iranian dissident in Turkey who was on the Iranian’s regime’s hit list, it is more than ever necessary that EU and Member States take precautionary measures and be especially attentive to Iranian agents’ unchecked access to European parliamentary institutions.
Background on some individuals with previous links to PMOI who recently visited the European Parliament to demonise the opposition movement:
Davood Baghervand-Arshad was a student in the UK in the 1980’s who joined the PMOI and volunteered to join their ranks in Iraq. In the late 1990s he declared that he was no longer able to bear the hardships, was expelled from the PMOI camp in Iraq and went to TIPF . From TIPF he went to Iran and later started working with the Iranian regime and published a series of articles against the PMOI inside Iran portraying the opposition as evil. In 2014 Baghervand-Arshad left Iran posing as a businessman and settled in Germany with the intention of advancing Tehran’s agenda abroad. He has frequently visited the European Parliament in Brussels in recent months.
Gholamreza Sadeghi-Jebelli (aka. Reza Sadeghi) was arrested on an Interpol warrant in Belgium in 2010 and deported to Canada. He served 20 months in jail in Canada for child abduction. He was also arrested by American military personnel in Iraq for spying on Iranian opposition refugees.
Arrested in Iran in the early 1980s, he was released after collaborating with the regime’s authorities. He later sought asylum in Canada. He married a Canadian woman and they had a child before they separated.
In 1995, based on a case filed by his ex-wife on child abduction, he was put under an arrest warrant on behalf of Interpol for kidnapping his child, whom a court ruling had ordered to be in the custody of his mother. He sent the child to Iran before fleeing to the United States where, hiding his past, he approached PMOI supporters and asked to be sent to Iraq to join their ranks.
While in Iraq, he was recognized by a former political prisoner who had spent time with him in the mullahs’ prison. That individual told PMOI officials about his collaboration with the regime and Sadeghi Jebelli was expelled from the PMOI, went to TIPF31 and from there to Iran.
In 2007 he took part as “a former repentant PMOI member” in several regime-orchestrated meetings in Tehran with parliamentary delegations from the European Parliament and the UK parliament. He was later dispatched to Iraq to help the Iranian regime in the repression of Iranian refugees in camp Ashraf, where he was arrested by the American military when he approached the camp.
In late 2009 he was sent to Brussels to help organise Iranian agents’ activities at the European Parliament. He was arrested in December 2010 by an Interpol warrant in Belgium on charges of child abduction and extradited to Canada. According to the Toronto Sun of 15 July 2012, the Ontario High Court condemned Gholamreza Sadeghi Jebelli to 22 months in jail and 2 years of suspended prison on charges of child abduction. After serving his time in jail, he returned to Brussels and has continued to facilitate access for Iranian regime agents to the European Parliament.
Ghorbanali Hossein Nejad Educated in Islamic religious schools of Iran. In April 2012, Hossein Nejad left the PMOI in Camp Liberty and went to Hotel Mohajer in Baghdad which was under the control of Iranian Intelligence Ministry. From there he started to collaborate with the regime and launched a disinformation campaign against the PMOI in conjunction with various websites affiliated with the Iranian regime in Iraq. His articles in Iraqi media were used by the regime to justify the repression and killing of the defenceless residents at Camp Liberty.
He was spotted outside Camp Ashraf on a reconnaissance mission not long before the camp was ambushed by masked men belonging to the Iranian regime, who murdered 52 defenceless refugees in September 2013. He was later sent to France by the Iranian regime.
In January 2015, he was arrested by the French police in Auvers-sur-Oise for spying on the opposition headquarters. While in French police custody, he admitted that he had been sent to Auvers by an intelligence attaché of the Iranian embassy in Paris from whom he receives monthly payments. Together with other Iranian agents, he has visited the European Parliament several times in recent months.
Issa Azadeh left the PMOI in Camp Liberty in January 2013 and went to Hotel Mohajer in Baghdad, which was under the control of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry. He was recruited by the regime, and is said to have passed on a lot of information about the residents of Camp Liberty and Camp Ashraf (personal data, coordinates of buildings, etc.) which were used by the regime to launch several missile attacks on Camp Liberty, killing and wounding the defenceless refugees.
He arrived in Germany on a direct flight from Tehran in December 2013, using an Iranian passport. He did not stay in Germany, but went to France. Between 2015-2017 he visited the European Parliament several times in the company of other Iranian agents.
Batool Soltani Sedeh left Camp Ashraf in Iraq on 6 Dec 2006 and went to TIPF. During her stay in TIPF, the MEK, on humanitarian grounds, provided her with money, a computer, clothes, and other essentials, under the supervision of US military officers. Her receipts for all these items together with her letters of gratitude to the PMOI, stating that she had left the MEK only because she could not continue the struggle, are available.
During her time in TIPF, she was gradually recruited by the Iranian intelligence ministry (MOIS). Soltani was finally transferred from Iraq to Iran on 14 Jan 2008 under International Red Cross supervision. Astonishingly, only 3 weeks later, she was able to get an Iranian passport and entered Baghdad airport on 10 Feb, 2008. (Copy of her passport has been posted online )
Former US Colonel Leo McCloskey, who was the JIATF Commander at Ashraf in 2008, later testified about Soltani’s connection with Iran’s terrorist Quds force (a branch of Islamic Revolutionary Guards – IRGC) – see page 10.
Deutsches Solidaritätskomitee für einen freien Iran
Beiratsvorsitzende: Prof. Dr. Rita Süssmuth; Vorsitzender: Otto Bernhardt, Stellv. Vorsitzender: Andy Jauch (MdA),
Geschäftsführerin: Hille Gosejacob-Rolf (DBSH), Beisitzer: Martin Patzelt (MdB), Leo Dautzenberg und Christian-H. Zimmermann
Sekretariat in Berlin, Tel: (030) 24047704, Email: [email protected]
Declaration of the German Solidarity Committee for a Free Iran – DSFI, 21 July 2016
Translation from German
A man convicted of espionage for Iranian intelligence – The DSFI welcomes the court decision
Iranian resistance was the target of espionage
Call to EU Member States to prosecute and expel Iranian intelligence agents
On 19 July 2016, the second branch of Berlin Criminal Court (Elßholzstraße 30-33, 10781 Berlin) concluded its judicial investigation opened on 2 June 2016 against two individuals accused of “Secret Agent activity” on behalf of the Iranian Government.
On 28/10/2015, the Attorney General (ACS) had reported that the 31-year-old Maysam P. had been arrested for alleged spying. He was accused of espionage on behalf of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS) against the Iranian opposition group People’s Mojahedin of Iran (MEK/PMOI) and the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
On behalf of the German Solidarity Committee for a Free Iran – GSCFI (Deutschen Solidaritätskomitees für einen Freien Iran – DSFI), Christian Zimmermann – member of the GSCFI Council – was appointed as an observer at the trial. The GSCFI welcomes the Berlin Court ruling which states: “After 9 months of extensive investigations and after nine days of debate within two months, the Berlin Court (2nd Criminal Division) announced, on July 19, 2016, its ruling in the espionage case by Iranian intelligence agents against the People’s Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI or MEK) and the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).”
The main accused -Maysam Panahi- who had been employed since 2013 as a spy against the Iranian Resistance, was sentenced to two years and four months in prison and to pay the costs of the trial. The second suspect, Saeid Rahmani, was sentenced during the proceedings to work 100 days in a non-profit organization. Maysam Panahi, after his expulsion from the Liberty Camp in Iraq, was recruited by the Iranian secret services (MOIS) in the “Mohajer Hotel” (an infamous seat of the MOIS in Baghdad). He began collaborating with the Iranian regime. With the help of the MOIS, he subsequently went to Germany as an asylum seeker.
The verdict of the judge affirms that the MOIS is a secret service of a foreign power and Panahi worked as a spy for this service. This activity as an agent is contrary to the interests of the Federal Republic of Germany. He had gathered information about PMOI members in France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States and sent them to his senior officer in the MOIS named as “Sadjad”. These activities have undermined the NATO pact and the interests of many German allies. Panahi was aware of what he was doing and that his actions were punishable. He is aware of what he has committed, and therefore showed no surprise when he was arrested.
Federal Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger wrote in an article in Focus-Online: “Iranian espionage in Germany is neither in the interests of good relations between the two countries nor constitutionally acceptable. It is a blatant violation of the law, and it results in a targeted disregard for German sovereignty. The Iranian regime has repeatedly violated laws in Germany, despite the rapprochement and against the integrity of our state; it violates the fundamental rights of citizens of Iranian origin who work for the opposition”. She adds: “It is a fundamental mistake to tolerate such State practice”.
We insist on Ms. Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger’s point of view and call on all EU Member States to take concrete action to prevent the activities of agents of the Iranian regime. The authors of these practices act disguised as “refugees” and sometimes as “critics” of the Iranian regime. Most of these agents should be known by the competent authorities.
The investigation by the German authorities, the testimonies in the trials and the confessions of the defendants revealed remarkable information that speaks of a large-scale espionage and operation of the secret services of the Iranian regime against the Iranian democratic opposition. It also shows the mullahs’ concern and fear of opposition groups such as the PMOI and the NCRI.
Among other things, the following facts have been revealed:
•Maysam Panahi had been working since 2013 as an agent of the Iranian intelligence services and had the task of collecting information for intelligence and recruiting new recruits to form a spy network of MOIS in European countries against the PMOI and the National Council of Resistance of Iran.
•His commander was a senior officer of the MOIS named as “Kianmehr” with the code name “Sadjad”, who is in contact with people in Germany, France and other European countries, in order to collect information about the PMOI and the NCRI, in order to denigrate and demonize them.
•Panahi transmitted information about the PMOI in Germany, France, Albania and Liberty Camp to Sadjad. In the indictment against him, there were several indications of his activities to recruit and expand the Iranian intelligence spy network at European level.
•Panahi travelled secretly to Iran for 19 days in April 2014 with a senior MOIS official from Turkey in order to obtain appropriate instructions for his espionage activities and to be trained by the secret services.
•The identified documents and information show that Panahi received at least €28,600 for the information he provided. It is believed that the real amount could be much higher, because the majority of this sum only concerns the months of March to October 2015.
•Panahi admitted that he passed information about Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty to Sadjad. One of the people recruited by Sadjad was Masoud Dalili, who guided the terrorist commando raid on 1 September 2013 on Camp Ashraf, which killed 52 members of the PMOI. Dalili himself was also killed by the commandos in question and his face was burned to prevent him from being recognized.
•One of the main tasks of the Iranian intelligence agents in Germany, a fact also confirmed by the German security authorities, is the dissemination of disinformation against the PMOI and the NCRI and their demonization. During the trial, it was revealed that “Sadjad” needed at least the services of three people to write a number of lies against the PMOI and the National Council of Resistance, which could then be presented and published by the secret services as a series of “observations and memories”.
•According to an official of the Federal Criminal Police Office, Mousa Akbari-Nasab, another person who has been arrested, also maintained contact with “Sajjad” and received financial support from him. In return, “Sajjad” asked him to contact other deserters from the MEK and form a network together with them. The people who were in contact with “Sajjad” were instructed to delete their telephone contact lists, as well as their chat texts so that they remained inaccessible, said the police officer.
•Ms. Tempel, of the Federal Criminal Police said in her testimony: “We received notifications in June 2014 claiming that Iranian intelligence was carrying out certain activities against the organization of the People’s Mojahedin of Iran. Afterwards we received more detailed information from the BND (Federal Intelligence Service, in German Bundesnachrichtendienst), which confirmed these activities. This information is from an anonymous source, but includes some names. It was clear that this was about the people in Liberty Camp”. She added: “The information clearly noted that Sajjad is a senior intelligence officer in Iran”.
•Helias Neumann, an official of the Federal Criminal Police Office in Meckenheim, said in his testimony that there was no doubt that these were espionage activities, carried out for “Sajjad”, a person who recruited deserters from the People’s Mojahedin Organization. According to Neumann, “Sajjad” contacted these people via the instant messenger applications “Viber”, “Telegram” or similar communication programs via telephone and computer. “Sajjad” wrote some instructions to these persons and send them via the communication media.
•The German Solidarity Committee for a Free Iran (DSFI), founded in October 2005, responded to allegations by the suspects who tried to justify their cooperation with the Iranian secret service MOIS by slandering the MEK.
The German Solidarity Committee for Free Iran (DSFI) has a large number of members from the Bundestag and the cultural society. The Prosecutor’s Office said that the cooperation of Panahi with the Iranian secret service had nothing to do with his experiences with the People’s Moiahedin, but had been determined solely by financial motives. According to the documents, Panahi was focused on getting more money for his information delivered to the Iranian intelligence agency.
The documents submitted by the NCRI, which he received from his sources from Iran, also show that immediately after the arrest of the agents of the Iranian regime in Germany, “Sajjad” commissioned other agents of the MOIS in Europe, especially in France, to protect Maysam Panahi and to portray his arrest as a conspiracy of the People’s Modjahedin against one of their “critics”. The alleged MOIS agents then wrote letters to the German judicial authorities or published articles on websites that were affiliated with the secret service. In these letters, they demanded that no proceedings should be opened against Panahi and the other accused. These attempts were unsuccessful.
What has happened in the last few weeks in the Berlin Court leaves no doubt about the main goal of the Iranian secret services (MOIS), which is to harm Iranian dissidents and refugees. This project is on a European scale, which focuses mainly on Germany. This is an attack on our country and our European rights and values. Therefore, our committee is asking European countries to keep track of the agents and stooges of the Iranian intelligence services with a zero tolerance policy against criminals, and to banish them from the country. It is true that the security of refugees is also a part of our security, but experience shows that the secret and intelligence attacks of the Iranian regime in Germany and Europe are not limited to refugees, but would extend to other political, economic and security sectors If they not decidedly rejected.
International Committee In Search of Justice (ISJ)
ISJ was initially formed in 2008 as an informal group of EU parliamentarians to seek justice for the Iranian democratic opposition. In 2014 it was registered as a non-profit NGO in Brussels expanding its membership beyond elected parliamentarians to former officials and other dignitaries with an interest to promote human rights, freedom, democracy, peace and stability. ISJ’s campaigns have enjoyed the support of over 4000 parliamentarians on both sides of the Atlantic.
President: Alejo Vidal-Quadras, a Spanish professor of atomic and nuclear physics, was vice president of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2014
Board of Advisors: Patrick Kennedy, Congressman (1995-2011); Günter Verheugen, Vice President of EU Commission (2004-2010); Nicole Fontaine, President of European Parliament (1999-2002); General Hugh Shelton, Chairman of US Joint Chiefs of Staff (1997-2001); David Kilgour, Canadian Secretary of State (1997-2003); Ingrid Betancourt ; Prof. Raymond Tanter, President of Iran Policy Committee, Washington D.C.; Prof. Horst Teltschik, Chairman of the Munich Security Conference (1999-2008); Colonel Wesley Martin, Antiterrorism/Force Protection Officer of all Coalition forces in Iraq (2005-2007); Senator Lucio Malan, Quaestor of Italian Senate; Alessandro Pagano MP, President of Committee of Italian Parliamentarians for a Free Iran; Antonio Razzi Secretary of Italian Senate Foreign Affairs Committee; Gérard Deprez MEP, Chair Friends of a Free Iran intergroup European Parliament; Ryszard Czarnecki, Vice President of European Parliament; Tunne Kelam, Member of European Parliament; Lord Carlile of Berriew QC, Co-Chair of British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom, former independent reviewer of UK terrorism legislations; Lord Clarke of Hampstead CBE, Former Chairman of UK Labour Party; Lord Maginnis of Drumglass; Lord Dholakia OBE, Deputy Leader of Liberal Democrats in House of Lords
A: ISJ, Rue d’Arlon 63, B-1040 Brussels – T: +32 2 400 1071 – E: [email protected] – W: isjcommittee.com