Open Letter to BBC – Distinguished Personalities Ask for Retraction of BBC’s Badly Sourced Program Against MEK

Mansoureh Galestan, NCRI, 23 November 2019

Distinguished personalities, former parliamentarians, cabinet members and military officers write an open letter to BBC’s Director-General, objecting the recent report aired by BBC, demonizing the legitimate opposition to the Iranian dictatorship, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), also known as Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK). A copy of this letter was provided to the, that follows:

Mr. Tony Hall

Director General

Broadcasting House 

London, W1A 1AA


We constitute a group of former parliamentarians, cabinet members and military officers from different nations but united in our support of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) efforts to end the religious dictatorship in Iran. Each of us has traveled to the MEK’s camp in Albania, Ashraf-3, established under the auspices of the United States Government and have extensive contacts with the membership of the MEK. 

The BBC report by Linda Pressly of November 7 (posted on November 11, 2019) represents both a significant departure from the facts and completely contradicts our experiences.

On July 13, 2019, we were among 350 foreign dignitaries visiting Ashraf-3 in Albania. During several days, we exchanged views and listened to MEK members. The allegations that members’ activities are restricted, information withheld, or that a free and open dialogue is denied are completely false. While we recognize that legitimate mistakes can be made by reporters with limited time or background, this experience cannot be so easily dismissed. The primary sources for these allegations, Hassan Hayrani and Gholam-Ali Mirzai, are both former residents now indisputably operating as agents of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS). The fact that your sources were compromised could easily be ascertained since both are being monitored by Albanian authorities. 

There is a stark contrast between the written report of November 11 and the original broadcast of November 7.  Deleted from the posted edition were favorable comments from Albanian officials and citizens on their interactions with MEK Members. Meanwhile, the demonstrably false claims by MOIS agents remained undisputed. 

The BBC would not be the first news organization to have been manipulated by the Iranian regime. Der Spiegel,on February 16, 2019, was similarly fed false information on Ashraf and MEK members which it similarly failed to research. The editions of Der Spiegel, at the instruction of a court in Berlin, dated March 21, 2019, issued a retraction. Recommend you research both those legal proceedings and their editors’ responses. 

The continued efforts of the Iranian regime to undermine the legitimate political opposition through false information isn’t without consequence. The MEK has paid the price of thousands of members being executed for the crime of free expression. This terror, fully disclosed to public sources, has included attempts to explode devices in Paris and Albania. The extraordinary work of French, German, Albanian and American Governments prevented these attacks. 

Investigations conducted by law enforcement agencies of these governments have determined the planned attacks were organized by the MOIS.  Both physical and character assassinations are standard operating procedures for the MOIS.  No one, to include the media, should allow themselves to aid and abet such actions.

It is critical to understanding how such a story, at such variance with the collective experience of so many potential sources, could be influenced by known agents of the Iranian regime without editorial control.  Truth in reporting is an obligation owed to the public, yourself, and in this case to the members of the MEK.  Facts, and not misinformation provided by the MOIS, should have been the foundation of this story.  As in the case of Der Spiegel, a retraction from BBC is merited.  

Hon. Ingrid Betancourt – Former Colombia Presidential Candidate

Hon. Paulo Casaca – Former Member of the Regional Azorean Assembly, of the Portuguese and of the European Parliament

Gen. (Ret.) James Conway – Former Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps

Hon. Robert Joseph – Former Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security

Colonel (Ret.), U.S. Army Wesley M. Martin – Former U.S. Military Commander for Camp Ashraf, former Senior Antiterrorism Officer of all Coalition Forced, Iraq

Hon. Robert Torricelli – Former New Jersey Senator

Hon. Louis J. Freeh – Former Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Hon. Alejo Vidal Quadras – Former Vice-President of the European Parliament

Hon. Rama Yade – Former French Minister of Human Rights

Hon. Tom Ridge – Former Pennsylvania Governor, First Secretary of U.S. Homeland Security

Prof. Ivan Sascha Sheehan – Executive Director of the School of Public International Affairs, University of Baltimore

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