Broadcaster employing stabbed journalist faced ‘heavy threats’ from Tehran

Tehran’s revolutionary guards have been targeting broadcaster Iran International, a spokesman said after a leading journalist was stabbed in London.

Counter-terrorism police are investigating the attack on Pouria Zeraati, who is in a stable condition after the incident outside his home in Wimbledon, south London.

Iran International spokesman Adam Baillie said the incident was “hugely frightening” but Mr Zeraati was “doing very well” and recovering in hospital.

Mr Zeraati posted a picture giving a peace sign from his hospital bed.

The London-based dissident channel aims to provide independent coverage of Iran, but the Tehran regime has declared it a terrorist organisation.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC)  has been targeting journalists and their families, Mr Baillie said.

Iran’s charge d’affaires in the UK Mehdi Hosseini Matin said “we deny any link” to the incident.

The Metropolitan Police said the motivation for Friday’s attack was not yet clear, but Mr Zeraati’s occupation coupled with recent threats towards UK-based Iranian journalists meant the probe was being led by specialist counter-terrorism officers.

Mr Baillie said: “It was a shocking, shocking incident, whatever the outcome of an investigation reveals.

“But for him as a leading presenter, as with our other presenters and journalists, yes, it is a great shock.

“It’s the first attack of its kind.”

Asked what he believed lay behind the attack, Mr Baillie told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “We can’t say. The fact that counter-terrorism is leading the investigation probably speaks for itself.

“Along with our colleagues at BBC Persian, Iran International has been under threat, very heavy threats, for the last 18 months since the IRGC said ‘we’re coming for you’, which they have consistently repeated.”

He said the IRGC “get in touch through proxies, they don’t leave a paper trail”.

“No one’s going to call up from the IRGC and go ‘hey, it’s us’, but families have been taken in for questioning and threatened.”

He added: “The scale of that has increased dramatically over the last few months, and the scale and the type of questioning is more aggressive, ‘tell your relatives to stop working for this channel’ and so on.”

In January, the Foreign Office announced sanctions against members of the IRGC’s Unit 840 following an ITV investigation into plots to assassinate two of Iran International’s presenters in the UK.

Officials said the plot was the latest credible example of Iran’s attempts to kill or intimidate Britons or people with links to the UK, with at least 15 such threats since January 2022.

Magomed-Husejn Dovtaev court case
Magomed-Husejn Dovtaev, who spied on a London-based Iranian television channel, was found guilty at the Old Bailey last year of attempting to collect information for terrorist purposes (Metropolitan Police/PA)

In a separate case in December 2023 an IT worker was jailed for three-and-a-half years for spying on Iran International before a “planned attack” on British soil.

Magomed-Husejn Dovtaev carried out hostile reconnaissance for others unknown at the London headquarters of Persian-language television channel Iran International in February.

After a trial at the Old Bailey, the Chechnya-born Austrian was found guilty of trying to collect information for terrorist purposes.