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The Ayatollah’s assassins in London

Hadi Khorsandi: subject of a “killing order” in 1980

The Iranian regime is trying to silence its overseas enemies “with the blunt-force instrument of murder”, says Paul Caruana Galizia in Tortoise. Since January 2022, the police and MI5 have foiled more than 15 Iranian plots “to assassinate or abduct individuals” in Britain. Persian-language media is a big target, in particular journalists who have reported on the huge anti-government protests that took place in the country last year. Aliasghar Ramezanpour, executive editor of Iran International TV, has been warned about multiple credible threats to his life; he now “moves around with a personal security guard”, and his staff have had to vacate their southwest London office. Journalists at BBC Persian and Manoto TV have had police warnings too, “including one about the possibility of children being kidnapped from their school”.

This so-called “hostile state activity” isn’t new. Iran began targeting individuals in the UK right after the 1979 Islamic revolution. In 1980, Ayatollah Khomeini issued a “killing order” against satirist Hadi Khorsandi after he made a joke about Mohammed – almost a decade before the Supreme Leader’s fatwa against Salman Rushdie made international headlines. When the Metropolitan Police visited Khorsandi to warn him of the threat, their best advice was never to be on time for an appointment. “A half-hour delay is one Iranian tradition I always observe,” Khorsandi replied. One officer shook his head and said: “Then God help you, because your killers are Iranian, too.”