Iranian-origin British businessman killed in Istanbul was threatened by Iranian regime, family members say

Iranian-origin British businessman killed in Istanbul was threatened by Iranian regime, family members say

Fırat Alkaç - ISTANBUL
Iranian-origin British businessman killed in Istanbul was threatened by Iranian regime, family members say

AA photo

An Iranian-origin British businessman who was shot dead in Istanbul had been threatened by the Iranian regime for the past three months, his relatives told the BBC on April 30. 

The family members of Saeed Karimian, 45, said the businessman was planning to leave Istanbul and move to London after receiving threats. Turkish authorities, however, said the killing may be related to business and gangs, BBC correspondent Jiyar Gol said.

The founder of the popular Farsi-language satellite television network GEM TV and his Kuwaiti business partner, Mohammed al Mohktari, were shot dead in Istanbul late on April 29 by masked individuals who opened fire on their vehicle. The assailants were wearing burqas, according to witnesses. 

GEM TV is known for its entertainment satellite channels that dub foreign films and Western television programs into Farsi for Iranians. It also produces movies and TV series.

But in Iran, where the government tries to instill Islamic values by strictly regulating popular culture, the satellite broadcaster’s programming has angered authorities, who view it as part of a cultural “soft war” waged by the West. 

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.

In 2016, a Revolutionary Court in Tehran tried Karimian in absentia and sentenced him to six years in jail on charges of “acting against national security” and “propaganda against the state.”

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

On April 30, Sarıyer Mayor Şükrü Genç said that according to initial reports the cause of the murder was related to money. 

According to police officials, Karimian and his business partner were heavily indebted to the market due to their companies’ productions. 

GEM TV has the selling rights of famous Turkish TV series including “Muhteşem Yüzyıl,” “Karadayı,” “Fatmagül’ün Suçu Ne” and “Yaprak Dökümü,” which are screened in Middle Eastern countries.  

During a speech in the Mediterranean province of Antalya in 2015, Karimian said GEM TV had 1,400 employees across the world. 

“We want to start at least 100 movies and 20 TV series projects in Turkey by 2016. We do a feasibility study for new projects for 11 months. Our 1,400 employees across the world will come to Turkey for these projects in one month. GEM TV is a special group that has eight different offices all over the world,” he said.

Police officials detected that the vehicle used in the assassination, which was found completely burnt out in Istanbul’s Kemerburgaz district, was stolen. 

Police also found a total of 15 empty cases at the scene and identified that the assailants had done a check in the scene before the assassination. 

The bodies of Karimian and his business partner were taken to a morgue for autopsy. Al Mohktari’s body was taken to Kuwait by consulate officials after the autopsy.