Iran General NewsParis court dismisses libel case against Iran Focus

Paris court dismisses libel case against Iran Focus

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Iran Focus: Paris, Apr. 07 – The 17th branch of the Court of Paris ruled last Thursday in favour of Iran Focus in a lawsuit brought against it for allegedly publishing libel about a French national. The libel charges were brought by Alain Chevalérias on 21 February 2008 against the “Iran Focus” website. Iran Focus

Paris, Apr. 07 – The 17th branch of the Court of Paris ruled last Thursday in favour of Iran Focus in a lawsuit brought against it for allegedly publishing libel about a French national. The libel charges were brought by Alain Chevalérias on 21 February 2008 against the “Iran Focus” website. After nearly six weeks of deliberation, the court dismissed Chevalérias’ case against the management of the website.

Chevalérias filed a suit against Iran Focus for publishing a report entitled “Iran – espionage: How VEVAK infiltrates France” on July 11, 2005. VEVAK is shorthand for Vezarat-e Ettela’at va Amniat-e Keshvar, or Ministry of Intelligence and Security (more commonly known by the acronym MOIS)

The report exposed Chevalérias’ close links to MOIS agents abroad working against Iranian opposition groups, in particular the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI) otherwise known as the MeK.

Chevalérias claimed that the report smeared his reputation as an independent journalist and had requested for the article to be removed from the website. He had also demanded financial compensation from Iran Focus.

During the court proceedings, Mr. Paulo Casaca, a Portuguese member of the European Parliament; Mr. Christoph Joseph, deputy mayor of the town of Auvers-sur-Oise, north of Paris; Mr. Mehdi Abrishamchi, Chairman of the Peace Committee of the main opposition coalition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI); Ms. Laila Jazayeri; and Mr. Hassan Habibi testified about Tehran’s campaign to vilifying its opposition. They also testified about the collaboration of Chevalérias with MOIS agents based in Europe such as Massoud Khodabandeh, Anne Khodabandeh (Singleton), Mohammad Hossein Sobhani, and Karim Haqi in their activities against the main Iranian opposition group.

In his oral testimony, Mr. Casaca talked about the findings of the European Parliamentary intergroup Friends of a Free Iran about the accusations levied against the PMOI as part of a “demonizing campaign” by Tehran. He refuted a common MOIS accusations that the PMOI is a “sect,” stressing that discipline and hard work are part of the “intricate realities of the struggle of freedom-lovers against the dictatorial regime in Iran” and have nothing to do with sects.

In his testimony, Mr. Abrishamchi offered background on the political goals and techniques of the MOIS in its demonization campaign against the PMOI and the wider NCRI. “The mullahs’ regime pursues its war on the Iranian people and their Resistance movement on two fronts”, he said. “The regime oppresses, hangs, and tortures people in Iran and exports its terrorism abroad in order to physically eradicate the Resistance on the one hand, while conducting a full-scale psychological war aiming to demonize the Resistance on the other”.

Ms. Jazayeri testified that in November 2005, subsequent to revelations made public in London, the UK Parliament refused to allow a meeting organised by “agents and collaborators of the Iranian regime” to take place at the House of Commons. She added that soon after this incident, she received threatening phone calls from Chevalérias on a number of occasions aimed at coercing her into changing her stance. As a result, she contacted the police to request protection, the details of which were documented at the time, she added.

Another witness, Mr. Habibi, described Chevalérias’ role during a knife-wielding assault by MOIS agents against Iranian refugees at the Fiap building in Paris on June 17, 2007. He said that during this attack, which led to the injury of a number of Iranian refugees, Chevalérias accompanied the agents.

Mr. Joseph, deputy mayor of the French town of Auvers-Sur-Oise, testified about an organised assembly of numerous MOIS agents in the town on April 1, 2005, saying, “On behalf of the town’s mayor, I reminded them that they do not have permission to conduct their assembly, and that, as local elected representatives, we will not allow them to do so. But, Chevalérias and his associates carried on with their illegal act. Chevalérias’ actions on that day in no way resembled those of an author or journalist, because he was himself one of the organisers of that assembly.”

Based on these testimonies, and after presenting ample evidence and documentation, Mr. Thierry Levy, the lawyer for Iran Focus, told the court that MOIS agents operating outside Iran were carrying out a systematic disinformation campaign against the Iranian opposition. He further pointed out Chevalérias’ role in these activities.

Abol-Hassan Bani-Sadr, the first President of the Islamic Republic of Iran after its founding in 1979, and Anne Singleton, an English national and a well-known MOIS agent, defended Chevalérias at the hearing.

Confronted with questions from the judge and the Iran Focus counsel, Bani-Sadr ultimately conceded that individuals who were acting against the Iranian opposition may have been bought off by the regime and that he could not corroborate their claims against the PMOI.

During the cross examination of Anne Singleton Khodabandeh, Mr. Levy exposed the history of her relationship with the theocratic state, including her close cooperation with officials in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison. He pointed out that Ms. Singleton runs the Iran-Interlink website, a site obsessed with attacking the PMOI. British parliamentarians consider Singleton and her husband Khodabandeh as meticulously deceitful agents of the mullahs’ regime, Mr. Levy added.

One of the documents revealed during the proceedings was a receipt showing that an MOIS front organisation paid Chevalérias’ expenses at a Tehran hotel during his trip to Iran.

In his concluding remarks, Mr. Levy said according to European parliamentarians the PMOI is the “only active opposition movement against the mullahs’ regime, and it is against this very movement that Mr. Chevalérias is conducting his activities”. Mr. Levy added, “This author, if one could call him an author, this journalist, if one could call him a journalist, who is able to pay for publishing his own books – or at least he so claims – says that he is committed to one goal. What is that goal? Serving the enemies of the PMOI … This individual is present wherever these people carry out their activities against the PMOI. Even Chevalérias himself does not deny that he is not present as a journalist, but rather admits that he has been involved in the organisation of such activities. Therefore, his goal is to merely levy accusations against the PMOI”.

Observers believe that last week’s ruling, which dismissed Chevalérias’ case in favour of Iran Focus, represents a serious blow to the MOIS and attempts by its domestic and foreign operatives to pressure, place constraints on, and censor revelations made by independent news organisations about Tehran’s demonization and espionage operations against the Iranian opposition.

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