SCANDAL AT DER SPIEGEL

DER SPIEGEL WEEKLY NEWS MAGAZINE

FAKE NEWS EXPOSED IN EUROPE

Donald Trump must be rubbing his hands together in glee! Fake News has been exposed at Der Spiegel, the popular and previously widely respected German news magazine with a weekly circulation of just under one million readers. Der Spiegel’s star reporter, the freelancer Claas Relotius, has admitted that he made up and invented stories that won him dozens of top awards for journalism and saw him acclaimed as journalist of the year by CNN in 2014. Relotius also wrote investigative articles for Die Welt, Die Zeit and for some US and British newspapers. The scandal has led to a huge outpouring of anguish by the various journals who used Relotius’ work, with many leading journalists stating that he has undermined the credibility of the profession.

The unfolding scandal in Germany should ring alarm bells in Britain, where fake news has begun to make inroads into media outlets that were once respected for their integrity. Left-wing press like the Guardian and Channel 4 News have both recently published outrageous stories traducing the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) and Iranian refugees currently residing in Albania. The PMOI is a key democratic opposition group that seeks regime change in Iran. They have been horribly oppressed inside Iran, suffering repeated massacres and assaults which have left tens of thousands of their members and supporters dead and imprisoned. The UN is currently investigating the mass murder of 30,000 PMOI political prisoners in 1988 in Iran in an atrocity which has now become the subject of a major report by Amnesty International.

As a former British MEP (1999-2014), I have closely followed the issue of the PMOI Iranian opposition for the last 18 years, from the time they were in camps Ashraf and Liberty in Iraq, up to the present and I know them to be trustworthy, honourable and highly motivated. Many have given up their careers and even family life to fight for the liberation of their country from the tyranny of the clerical regime. 3,000 of their supporters had built a camp in Northern Iraq where they had lived in peace for years, until the US military left the country and handed over control of their camp to the Iraqi authorities. As puppet-masters of the corrupt Iraqi government the Iranian regime orchestrated repeated brutal attacks on these unarmed and defenceless refugees. 168 men and women were killed and a further 1700 wounded. An international campaign began to rescue the survivors, but the EU, following their policy of appeasement, turned a blind eye to the plight of the PMOI refugees. Only little Albania, a country on the periphery of Europe, that had suffered from years of Communist oppression and knew what freedom fighting is all about, offered a safe haven and a major airlift began. 

But the mullahs were not about to allow over 3,000 opposition members to slip from their grasp in camps inside Iraq. Their attempts to liquidate the PMOI had been thwarted. They could not allow these dissidents, who offer a democratic future of freedom and justice to the oppressed millions in Iran, to set up a new base in Albania. A campaign of demonization and terror began. The formerly tiny Iranian embassy in Albania was transformed into one of the regime's largest embassies in the Balkans. In early 2016, as the PMOI dissidents were being transferred to Albania in groups, Tehran sent a new ambassador, Gholam Hossein Mohammadinia, to Albania. Mohammadinia is a former high-ranking intelligence official and was also a member of the Iranian nuclear negotiating team before accepting his appointment in Albania. His main mandate in Tirana was to continue to implement the regime's malign plots against the PMOI. The embassy became the focus of an expanding nest of 25 intelligence agents and spies

In late 2017, another senior intelligence official, Mostafa Roudaki, joined him as First Secretary. He became the IranianIntelligence Ministry’s (MOIS) station chief in Albania.He was previously head of the Iranian regime's intelligence station in Austria and had been coordinating surveillance and terrorist activities against the PMOI in Europe. He was replaced in Austria by Assadullah Assadi, the ‘so-called’ diplomat, who was arrested in Germany in July 2018 after he had delivered a bomb to two Iranian agents and instructed them to detonate it at a large gathering  of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in Paris, attended not only by Iranians but also by hundreds of political dignitaries from across the world. Assadi was extradited to Belgium and is now awaiting trial on terrorism charges. 

Prior to that in March 2018 a terrorist plot against a New Year celebration gathering of the PMOI members in Tirana was foiled and when the finger of blame was pointed at Iran’s ambassador to Albania, Gholam Hossein Mohammadinia and his First Secretary Mostafa Roudaki, the two were expelled from the country by Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama in December 2018, on the grounds that they posed a threat to national security. Prime Minister Rama received a letter of praise and congratulations from President Trump on 14thDecember saying “thank you for your steadfast decision to stand up to Iran to counter its destabilization activities and efforts to silence dissidents around the globe. The leadership you have shown by expelling Iran’s ambassador to your country exemplifies our joint efforts to show the Iranian government that its terrorist activities in Europe and around the world will have severe consequences.”

This was certainly not an isolated case of Iran using its embassies as terrorist cells. In  September 2018, the regime sent another MOIS  agent with close ties to the Iranian embassy and its ambassador in Norway,to assassinate an opposition figure in Denmark. He too now awaits trial on terrorism charges.

But prior to these expulsions the demonization campaign against the PMOI had begun. For this purpose, the mullahs focused their attention on elements of the Western media, manipulating their anti-Trump, anti-American, anti-Saudi Arabian agenda to encompass a smear campaign against the PMOI. As part of this policy the Iranian regime has set up official or unofficial intelligence and surveillance stations in the Balkans. Massoud Khodabandeh and his wife, Anne Singleton, two well-known UK-based MOIS spies, identified as such in a Library of Congress and Pentagon Report, were flown in to Tirana several times.In October 2018, when Twitter revealed a large number of tweets and re-tweets posted by the MOIS and the IRGC, it became clear that many of the regime’s Twitter accounts quoted Khodabandeh and Singleton. The MOIS had clearly instructed these two mercenaries to focus all their resources on the PMOI presence in Albania. 

Khodabandeh and his wife were seen prowling around the new compound being constructed by the Ashrafis near the town of Manza in the Albanian province of Durres. Sure enough, in due course, some gullible Western journalists were spotted in their company. Soon, both Channel 4 News and the Guardian ran smear stories targeting the Iranian refugees in Albania, likening them to a cult, living in a tightly secured military compound. One article even alleged that they had kidnapped and murdered some of their own supporters. The claims were preposterous and easily disproved. The refugee’s camp in Manza employs more than 600 local Albanians on a daily basis. Thousands of relatives of the refugees who had been prevented from seeing them in Iraq for years, have flown to Albania and visited the camp. Lawyers, politicians and human rights activists are regular visitors. But none of this was reported by Channel 4 News and the Guardian. Indeed, the fact that their reports appeared almost word for word in a website created by the Iranian spies Khodabandeh and Singleton three weeks before being published in the UK, exposed the sinister source of the prejudicial fake news.

Alerted to the likelihood of these fake articles appearing, many prominent politicians wrote to Channel 4 News and the Guardian warning them that they would be publishing fake news and playing into the hands of the mullahs and their terrorist and repressive regime. Our warnings were ignored. The clear assumption must be that the policy of appeasing the mullahs has found a much deeper well of sympathy in some parts of the European media than previously thought. Editorial policy that condones the publication of fake news of this magnitude not only undermines the integrity of journalism, as Der Spiegel has now admitted, it drives a stake into the heart of the Iranian people, whose nationwide protests against the mullah’s fascist regime have raged for 12 months. Grovelling apologies from Channel 4 News and the Guardian are now eagerly awaited.