Iran’s most senior diplomat summoned to Foreign Office again after assassination threats to UK journalists

Iran’s most senior diplomat has again been summoned by the Foreign Office after a UK-based Iranian broadcaster was forced to move out of the UK due to assassination threats from Tehran.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said he summoned the Iranian charge d’affaires in the UK, Mehdi Hosseini Matin, “to make clear we will not tolerate threats to journalists in the UK”.

He said the UK has also sanctioned members of the Iranian regime “involved in repressing and killing the Iranian people, including children”.

“Iran’s threats will never go unchallenged”, he tweeted.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokeswoman said Iran’s charge d’affaires was summoned to the Foreign Office on Monday afternoon and a meeting took place with the director general for the Middle East.

“The UK will not tolerate threats to life and media freedom in the UK,” the spokeswoman said.

Iran’s charge d’affaires has been summoned every month since October last year over various human rights issues, including over alleged threats by Iranian security forces to journalists in the UK last November.

Over the weekend, Iran International TV revealed it had been forced to relocate its headquarters temporarily from Chiswick, west London, to its studios in Washington DC after police warned of “imminent and credible threats to the lives of their journalists”.

Security Minister Tom Tugendhat condemned “this outrageous violation of our sovereignty” and confirmed eight individuals from the Iranian regime had been sanctioned on Monday, on top of the 300 sanctions already in place.

He added that counter-terrorism police are trying to find a safe place for Iran International TV to move to within the UK and insisted they will come back as there is no more fundamental freedom “than the freedom of the press”.

On Monday last week, a man was arrested outside the Chiswick TV studio and was charged with terrorism offences related to the surveillance of the company’s headquarters, police said.

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The channel said that it had “reluctantly” closed its London studios but its staff “refuse to be silenced by these cowardly threats”.

Following the decision, editor Niusha Boghrati told Sky News: “The threats have turned into a reality of terrorism.

“That is what the Met Police have been telling us. Threats were so real this time that they had to ask us to move the operation out of the country. It was hard to believe.”

He added that police have been “heavily guarding” the channel’s offices with armed police but it was “getting out of hand”.

Mr Boghrati said threats on journalists reporting on Iran “is not something new, but the threats of assassination and kidnapping is an extreme that so far we had not experienced”.

Scotland Yard revealed that police and MI5 had foiled 15 plots since the start of 2022 to either kidnap or assassinate UK-based individuals perceived as enemies of the Iranian regime.