Iran's intelligence minister tells official media that the BBC is devoted to "political intelligence"
He says "important" information has come to light and warns against working with the BBC
6 documentary filmmakers were arrested this month and accused of working for the BBC
The BBC denies the 6 worked for them and says arrests were "to put pressure on the BBC"
Iran’s intelligence minister said Sunday his government has found “important information” in light of the recent arrests of six documentary filmmakers that it claims worked with the British Broadcasting Corporation – a company he said is devoted to “political intelligence” – state-run media reported.
Citing sources, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said last Monday that the six were taken into custody days earlier and accused of spying and working for the BBC’s Persian service.
The BBC said that day, though, that no one works for its Persian service inside Iran and noted that the arrests came a day after it broadcast a documentary on Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.
Nonetheless, Iranian Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi told the official IRNA news agency Sunday that authorities “will diligently pursue the case” and referred to the recent arrests as “the beginning of our activities in this affair.”
“British intelligence, under the cover of the BBC, has started a new phase in its destructive activities,” he said. “And to prevent more people from falling in the trap set by the (Secret Intelligence Service), the ministry had to act.”
The BBC reported that recent documentary on Khamenei was an in-house production and that none of the detained filmmakers worked on it. The media organization’s language service chief, Liliane Landor, said on its website that the arrests are part of “ongoing efforts by the Iranian government to put pressure on the BBC.”
There is a prohibition in Iran on cooperating with the BBC, one which Moslehi said “had been declared directly and indirectly several times in the past to safeguard the country’s interests.”
“The ban was imposed because the BBC is not a news organization,” he added. “Rather, it is an organization disguised as a news organization but its real identity is Baha’i and Zionist, and its mission is political intelligence.”
Moslehi accused the BBC of helping direct anti-government protests inside in Iran in 2009. That reiterates a comment made last week by Iran’s minister of culture and Islamic guidance to the semiofficial Iranian Student News Agency.
“BBC (Persia) was a major actor in the disturbances during and after the (2009) elections,” Seyed Mohammad Hosseini said.
On its website, the BBC states that it is “a public service broadcaster, established by a royal charter and funded by a license fee that is paid by UK households.”
“Trust is the foundation of the BBC: we are independent, impartial and honest,” the company adds.
On Sunday, Moslehi – the intelligence minister – issued a fresh warning against those cooperating with the BBC.
Moslehi warned all those who are thinking about collaborating with “this anti-Iran and anti-Islamic Revolution organization not to be fooled by the BBC’s appearance and its slogans,” he told IRNA. “We are watching all such collaborations and will take proper action at the right time.”
CNN’s Shirzad Bozorgmehr contributed to this report.