“He is a great and honest journalist”: Iranian journalist speaks out after attack on Pouria Zeraati

An Iranian journalist and human rights activist has spoken out in support of his friend Pouria Zeraati after he was attacked outside his Wimbledon home last Friday.

Speaking to the South London Press, Vahid Beheshti, 46, a former Camberwell resident, said: “I was in Washington DC speaking with congress about the dangers of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) when I heard the news that my friend Pouria had been attacked.”

Pouria Zeraati, a presenter for Iran International, was stabbed by two men outside his home at around 2.50pm.

He is now in a stable condition and has been discharged from hospital. 

The Met said the motivation for the attack remains unclear, but Mr Zeraati’s role at Iran International, coupled with recent threats towards UK-based Iranian journalists, meant the investigation was being led by specialist counter-terrorism officers.

Pouria Zeraati (Picture: Iran International)

Mr Beheshti, who was interviewed by Mr Zeraati last year, said: “Pouria is an honest and great journalist. He has one enemy and that is the Iranian regime.”

The Iranian regime has denied any involvement in the attack, the BBC reported.

In May 2023, Mr Beheshti was hospitalised after 72 days of hunger strike outside the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in King Charles Street, Whitehall, calling on the UK Government to add the IRGC to the list of terrorist organisations. 

At the time, Mr Beheshti told the South London Press that “a cleric close to the IRGC” had called out a fatwa – a legal ruling in the Islamic Republic – against him to condone his killing. Clerics have high standing in Iran’s regime.

Vahid Beheshti in hospital after 72 days of hunger strike last year (Picture: Vahid Beheshti)

In December 2020, the IRGC kidnapped and executed Mr Beheshti’s close friend, Rouhollah Zam, accusing him of using a messaging app to stir up dissent.

Mr Beheshti said: “Every day I think is my last. I don’t know how I am still alive.”

A spokesman from Iran International said: “While nothing has been confirmed by the Met as to the identity of the attackers or their motives, it is shocking to think that Pouria could have been killed in the attack, which followed a series of threats against him.”

The media group said it has faced threats from the Iranian Government for the past 20 months, and other journalists at the network faced “imminent threats of attacks” in 2022 and 2023.

Set up in 2017, the Persian language channel broadcasts from London but is aimed at Iranian viewers. 

Topics covered by the channel in the past include human rights violations in Iran. 

Vahid Beheshti on hunger strike outside the Home Office (Picture: David Sladek)

In February last year, the media group temporarily relocated to Washington DC due to threats to its journalists, and returned to London in September.

National Union of Journalists’ (NUJ) general secretary, Michelle Stanistreet, said: “This cowardly attack on Pouria is deeply shocking, and our thoughts are with him, his family and all of his colleagues.

“We will continue to liaise with the Met and the National Committee for the Safety of Journalists, as part of our wider work to stamp out the targeting of journalists.”

The Met said Mr Zeraati’s attackers fled the scene after the attack in a blue Mazda, driven by a third man. The car was found abandoned in the New Malden area shortly afterwards.

After abandoning the vehicle, the suspects travelled to Heathrow Airport and left the UK, Commander Dominic Murphy said.

Counter-terrorism police are now working with international partners to establish further details.

A spokesman for the Met said: “Anyone with information about this incident who has yet to speak with officers is asked to call police on 0800 789 321.”

Pictured top: Pouria Zeraati in hospital after the attack (Picture: Iran International)

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