Mysterious crime in Istanbul: Iranian TV executive, Kuwaiti businessman killed

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The Iranian founder of a Farsi-language satellite television network was shot dead in Istanbul alongside a Kuwaiti business partner, Turkish media reported Sunday, just months after reportedly being convicted of spreading “propaganda” against the Islamic Republic.

Gunmen opened fire on Saeed Karimian of GEM TV after cutting off his car with an SUV in Istanbul late Saturday night, Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper reported. Police later found the SUV abandoned and burned, the newspaper said.

The private Dogan news agency identified the dead Kuwaiti by the initials M.M. Kuwait’s state-run KUNA news agency, quoting the consul general in Istanbul, confirmed a Kuwaiti citizen was gunned down, without elaborating.

GEM TV, which has offices in Dubai, Turkey and elsewhere, rebroadcasts Turkish soap operas and other entertainment shows dubbed into Farsi. A website for Karimian describes the network as being set up in 2001 in London and later moving to the United Arab Emirates.

A man who answered the telephone at GEM TV’s office in Dubai declined to comment. Hurriyet reported that Karimian was a dual Iranian-British national. The Foreign Office declined to immediately comment.

While satellite television is popular in Iran, owning a satellite dish is illegal. Police and security forces occasionally smash dishes and seize receivers as authorities routinely denounce the Western pop culture shown on satellite channels as decadent and un-Islamic.

Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency, considered to be close to the country’s hard-line paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, described GEM as an opposition network and said that Karimian had been given a prison sentence for “propaganda,” without elaborating.

Tasnim also reported that both Karimian and his father had ties to the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq. That Iranian exile group, known by the initials MEK, sided with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

In a statement, the MEK denied the Iranian claims that Karimian and his father had links to the group. The MEK blamed the Revolutionary Guard for the killings, noting they were carried out on the eve of a day honoring the Guard. It offered no other evidence to support the assertion.

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