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Man ‘spied on HQ of London-based TV channel Iran International to help terror plotters’ | UK News

An Austrian man is on trial accused of carrying out “hostile reconnaissance” of a TV station in London that was potentially being targeted for a terrorist attack.

Magomed-Husejn Dovtaev is said to have tried to covertly film security arrangements outside the headquarters of the Persian-language channel Iran International in February.

Prosecutors said the TV station was a potential target for plotters after Iran’s government criticised its coverage of protests in the country following the death in custody of Mahsa Amini.

Iran’s minister of intelligence later declared the channel a terrorist organisation, making its employees “targets for violent reprisals,” jurors were told.

Dovtaev, originally from Chechnya, was questioned by security guards outside the company’s premises in Chiswick Business Park, west London, but told them he was visiting the area to meet a friend.

Iran International TV west London studio. Pic: Iran International TV
Image:
Iran International TV west London studio. Pic: Iran International TV

However, he was later arrested by counterterrorism police after he was seen filming the building on his mobile phone, the court heard.

It came just hours after he flew into the country from Austria.

The 31-year-old denies a single charge of attempting to collect information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.

Supporters of women's rights in Iran raise signs with Mahsa Amini's picture on the anniversary of her death during a protest outside the White House, in Washington, U.S., September 16, 2023. REUTERS/Allison Bailey NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.
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The death Mahsa Amini in Iran sparked protests around the world

Prosecutors said they were not suggesting that Dovtaev himself aimed to carry out or participate in an attack on the building or its staff.

Jurors at the Old Bailey were told he sought to “identify and exploit” vulnerabilities at the building and that his visit was the most recent in a series of similar trips by “others unknown”.

Videos of the building pre-dating the day he visited had been saved to his phone, the court heard.

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Prosecutor Nicholas de la Poer KC told jurors on Monday: “The prosecution’s case is that he [Dovtaev] was not there to meet a friend or to look at the scenery.

“The prosecution’s case is that he was carrying out hostile reconnaissance.

“He had travelled to the UK in order that any [security] vulnerabilities could be identified and exploited.”

Mr De la Poer told the court that the building’s security was “of very real and practical interest to those who might wish to carry out” reprisals against the TV channel.

He added: “It is the prosecution’s case that the defendant, no doubt acting on the instructions of others, went to the Chiswick Business Park for the purpose of gathering information about the security arrangements around Iran International.

“Such information would be useful to anyone preparing to attack [it].”

The trial, which is expected to conclude next week, continues.

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