Middle East

Iran judiciary freezes assets of BBC Persian staff

Photograph of court order freezing assets of BBC Persian staff, former staff and contributors
Image caption The BBC was not notified of the court order, which names 152 individuals

The BBC has called on the Iranian authorities to reverse a new order that appears to effectively freeze the assets of its staff in Iran.

BBC World Service Director Francesca Unsworth said it deplored the apparent "targeted attack" on BBC Persian staff, former staff and some contributors.

She said the order was preventing staff from selling or buying property, cars and other goods.

BBC Persian, which broadcasts on TV, on radio and online, is banned in Iran.

In recent years staff and their family members have been routinely subjected to harassment and intimidation by the Iranian authorities.

BBC Persian has obtained a court order that lists the names of 152 staff, former staff and contributors whose non-liquid assets have been frozen by Iran's judiciary.

It was issued by the Shahid Moghadas Courthouse, which is based at Tehran's Evin prison.

The BBC was not notified of the court order and only learnt about the asset freeze when a relative of a BBC Persian employee tried to sell a property on their behalf.

The Iranian judiciary has given no explanation for the court order.

"We deplore what appears to be a targeted attack on BBC Persian staff, former staff, and some contributors," said Ms Unsworth in a statement on Tuesday.

"It is appalling that anyone should suffer legal or financial consequences because of their association with the BBC."

"We call upon the Iranian authorities to reverse this order urgently and allow BBC staff and former staff to enjoy the same financial rights as their fellow citizens."

The management of BBC Persian described the court order as another attempt by Iran's judiciary to silence impartial journalists.

Amir Azimi, acting head of BBC Persian, said journalists working for the Persian service would continue to bring independent, impartial and trusted news to Persian speakers around the world.

Despite the ban in Iran, the latest figures show the BBC World Service has an audience of 13 million in the country, making it the seventh biggest market worldwide for BBC News.

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