By Staff Writer, Iran Probe
Monday, 25 July 2016
After 9 months of widespread judicial investigations, followed by two months of follow-ups and 9 public hearings in court, on Tuesday, July 19th a Berlin court issued its ruling on a case involving Iranian intelligence agents spying on members of the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MeK) and National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
Despite all the brouhaha made by Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence (VEVAK / MOIS) and its choir of agents in Europe, such as Iran-interlink website run Massoud Khodabandeh and his wife Ann Singleton, an agent by the name of Meisam Panahi – known to have spied on Iranian opposition members since 2013 – was sentenced to 2 years and 4 months behind bars and to pay all the court fees. Another agent by the name of Saeed Rahmani had been previously sentenced to 100 days of forced labor.
Meisam Panahi used to be in Camps Ashraf and Liberty in Iraq until 2012. Then he was transferred to Hotel Mohajer in Baghdad where he was recruited and deployed by VEVAK / MOIS. The Berlin court hearings are well documented historical prove of what PMOI/MeK members have been saying for many years that human rights allegations made by a handful of vociferous ex-members are baseless since these are not anything but regurgitate spentandunfounded allegations by hirelings of the mullahs' VEVAK / MOIS deployed for a widespread demonization campaign against the PMOI/MeK.
The judge read out a document prepared by the Germany’s foreign intelligence service (BND) on 25 August 2015 that showed VEVAK / MOIS tries to recruit ex-members of the PMOI in Hotel Mohajer. The recruited individuals are mainly transferred to various European countries via Turkey by professional smugglers, all on a mission to demonize the PMOI and spy on their activities.
NCRI office in Germany that followed the court hearings closely has provided a report that gives a broad picture and sheds light on this issue. The following report by the NCRI German office is a tip of the iceberg of the events in these court hearings and the ruling, along with federal criminal police testimonies.
Excerpts from report by NCRI representative office in Germany:
1. According to the ruling and the documents presented to the court, in 2013 Meisam Panahi was recruited by an MOIS agent by the name of Kianmehr, aka Sajjad. Panahi would receive money to gather information and place his efforts to establish a spy network in European countries against the PMOI and NCRI. Sajjad, with 29 years of experience in the MOIS, is the main MOIS and terrorist Quds Force ringleader in Baghdad’s Hotel Mohajer. His activities have been unveiled for many years, as mentioned in numerous NCRI and NCRI Security & Anti-Terrorism Committee statements. Moreover, the Iranian opposition-associated INTV satellite TV station has exposed this MOIS agent in numerous programs.
For the court hearings, beginning from June 2nd, Panahi was transferred from jail to court and placed in a glass chamber.
2. In the first court session, the senior federal prosecutor read out the bill of indictment and a long list of accusations. Reports and espionage documents, telephone and internet communications, and the transfer of information to Sajjad were all presented by the senior federal prosecutor.
According to these documents it was made clear for the court that Panahi was gathering a wide variety of intelligence on a daily basis about the PMOI in various countries and transferring them to Sajjad. In numerous cases he used different methods to recruit new individuals and expand the MOIS espionage network across Europe.
A known method for this purpose is a smear campaign against the PMOI under the guise of raising criticism, a show of sympathy and an effort to save their lives along with parallel slander against the regime to cover their true nature. In this regard according to the court documents Sajjad had called on at least three defectors to write a long list of lies against the PMOI under the pretext of their own memoirs. The MOIS would use these writings and publish them in a book.
The bill of indictment clearly indicates that the MOIS uses its agents to expand its influence and discredit the PMOI and NCRI on one case after another, all with the support of propaganda activities.
3. In March and April 2014 Panahi secretly went to Iran via Turkey along with a MOIS agent to receive training in espionage and up-to-date briefings. However, he was arrested in Germany on 28 October 2015 on the verge of his second trip to Tehran. He had received at least €28,600 from Sajjad for his espionage work. Panahi admitted to delivering intelligence about Ashraf and Liberty to Sajjad. He was transferred from Ashraf to Liberty in March 2012, was expelled by the PMOI in March of that year and found his way to Baghdad’s Hotel Mohajer.
4. According to the bill of indictment and testimonies delivered by federal criminal police officers, Panahi and other agents went to the limits to take advantage of their former communications and relations with the PMOI in various countries and centers. While covering their mission, they would continue to spy and gather intelligence about the PMOI and NCRI. The prosecutor and court judges presented details in numerous cases and explained the various pretexts resorted to by the mullahs’ intelligence, emphasizing the missions appointed to their agents was to recruit PMOI defectors to spy on the PMOI in Albania and individuals going to this country.
5. In a court session a member of the NCRI office in Berlin testified for three hours.
“One of the individuals recruited in Hotel Mohajer and quickly delivered to the Quds Force was a PMOI defector by the name of Massoud Dalili, who then became then the guide and aid of the murderers who infiltrated into Ashraf on September 1st, 2013 and carried out that massacre. 52 PMOI members were murdered and seven others were taken captive. The attackers then murdered Dalili on that same day and burned his face to cover his identity,” he said.
The judge registered the documents related to this massacre as court evidence.
6. The hired spies and lawyers went to great lengths to depict Sajjad as a low-level employee of the Iranian embassy in Baghdad in order to portray his relations with the various agents as quite ordinary. In this regard the judge asked the witness of the NCRI office were the agents aware of Sajjad’s identity or not? He answered all PMOI members and supporters, in Ashraf, Liberty and abroad were aware of Sajjad’s nature and objectives in Hotel Mohajer, and his efforts to recruit defectors. This information was provided and made public through statements issued by the NCRI and the NCRI Security Committee aired by INTV, and also the very transparent explanations provided by PMOI and NCRI office officials. No one has ever fell into the trap of these Iranian regime agents without prior knowledge, he added.
7. An officer of the German criminal police testified that Mousa Akbari Nassab, a former Liberty resident, temporary arrested on 28 October 2015 along with Panahi and saw his home searched, had widespread communications with Sajjad and received money from him. In return Sajjad had asked Mousa Akbari Nassab to establish relations with PMOI defectors and recruit them. According to the federal criminal police officer the individuals linked to Sajjed were instructed to immediately delete or store in a secret location any trace of their telephone calls and chat texts with Sajjad in order to cloak this top secret relationship.
8. The judge summoned to court an individual by the name of Shahab Karimi, a contact of Sajjad and Panahi. This agent asked the judge for the hearing to be held behind closed doors as he preferred not to testify before Iranian opposition supporters. The judge denied this request, saying open court sessions are a pillar of German judiciary, ordering him to appear in court.
In response to numerous questions raised by the court judge regarding the reason why he left Liberty and went to Hotel Mohajer, at first Karimi attempted to place the blame on the PMOI life style in Liberty. However, he was forced to admit to being expelled from Liberty along with Panahi and going to Hotel Mohajer afterwards. Karimi was also arrested and interrogated by German police on 28 October 2015 along with Panahi. His home was also inspected.
9. Another federal criminal police officer testified in court, “We in June 2014 received information about MOIS activities aimed at spying on the PMOI. Consequently, in October 2014 we received more detailed information from the BND, Germany’s foreign intelligence service, regarding active spying against the PMOI. This intelligence was provided from an unknown source and contained a list of specific names, revealing how precise individuals in Liberty were the targets of this spying, to maybe allow the MOIS obtain more information. Surveillance on Sajjad’s contacts with the agents and analyzing this information made it clear for the federal police that Sajjad is a senior-level MOIS agent with specific criminal missions against the PMOI in Liberty.”
“Meisam and Sajjad came in contact through different methods,” the officer emphasized. “We once learned through a telephone call between Sajjad and Panahi that they contacted each other through Telegram, and from then on we launched surveillance on his different communications programs. From June 2015 we obtained text messaging between these two individuals. Sajjad was chatting extensively. Panahi had daily chats with Sajjad. They also talked through Viber. Surveillance on Viber began on September 2015, and from then on most of the intelligence transfer to Sajjad was made through Viber.”
The police officer said Sajjad provided at least €28,600 to Panahi, and this money was sent through Western Union via an individual by the name of Mohammad Thamer. Panahi admitted to him that he secretly went to Iran with Sajjad for a period of 19 days, the police officer added.
10. The judge read out a document regarding Sajjad prepared by the BND on 25 August 2015. This individual attempts to recruit PMOI defectors in Hotel Mohajer, according to this document. The recruited individuals are mainly transferred to various European countries via Turkey by professional smugglers, all on a mission to demonize the PMOI and spy on their activities.
11. Another witness of the federal criminal police involved in interrogating Panahi revealed that much of the communications of this agent on his iPhone 6 device was under surveillance, and therefore there is no doubt that this individual is a spy.
“Sajjad recruited defectors in Baghdad and made contact with them through his phone, Viber, chat, Al Line and computer. Sajjad always wrote his orders and instructors for his agents, and transferred these instructions through various communications devices. Panahi used to tell others there is no problem with going to Iran; go to Turkey and Sajjad will take care of the rest…. We were certain that Sajjad or one of his individuals received Panahi in Turkey and transferred him to Iran. Another issue is that Panahi was allowed to spend as much money as he needed, with no limits imposed. It was very clear for the police the activities of this network’s members. Otherwise, we would never place them under surveillance,” the officer added.
12. In the final court session the prosecutor referred to three previous examples of espionage activities for Iran on German soil, with each case ending in prison sentences for the individuals involved. The prosecutor added Sajjad was receiving his information mainly from individuals described as “former PMOI members.” The prosecutor reiterated the details of the activities and missions carried out by Panahi, adding he gathered information on the PMOI in various countries, placed them at Sajjad’s disposal and his work was not focused solely on Germany.
Based on MOIS instructions the agents claimed they left the PMOI and joined the MOIS because of harsh conditions or the PMOI’s inner lifestyle. In this regard the prosecutor said evidence shows that Panahi’s motive for cooperating with the MOIS had nothing to do with the PMOI’s inner lifestyle. In fact, he was seeking money and he even mentioned in one of his chats that he has to receive more money for the intelligence he is providing.
13. The court ruling included a document containing a chart of money provided by the MOIS to its agents. This documents reveals the days and dates of the money transactions. The latest such case was the transfer of €2,000 conducted 8 days prior to Panahi’s arrest. The money transfers began from €500 and reached €5,630 on 29 April 2015. This document clearly shows to what extent the mullahs’ regime and its intelligence apparatus provide money for slander and espionage against the PMOI, and to obtain information and gain the trace of PMOI officials in Liberty, Albania, Germany and other countries.
14. Based on the issued ruling the convicted agent must serve time in prison and pay the court fees. Moreover, the ruling specifies that the following items are confiscated and will remain at the court’s disposal:
- Mobile phone – No. HTC 1
- iPhone 6 mobile phone, white color
- Samsung Galaxy mobile phone, black color
- Nokia mobile phone, black color
- Notebook computer
15. The judge issued the following ruling against Panahi in the last court session on July 19th, reading in part:
“The MOIS is a powerful foreign institute and Panahi worked for this entity as a spy. These activities on German soil are based on the law considered against the German Federal Republic and its allies in NATO due to the fact that Meisam Panahi gathered information on PMOI members in France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Albania and the United States, transferring this information to the MOIS, knowing what he was doing came with punishment. He was aware his actions were against the law and came with prosecution. Panahi received money from social aid in Germany, parallel to the wage he received from Iran’s intelligence service for spying,” the judge said.