Iran’s surveillance operations in Norway
Iran’s goal is to prevent the establishment of any opposition against Iran in Europe, including Norway, the former consul at the Iranian embassy in Norway tells Norwegian public service TV station NRK.
Asylum seekers are subject to recruitment attempts aimed at getting them to spy on the Iranian opposition in Norway. Several asylum seekers who have fled the Iranian regime have arrived at Kasper asylum reception centre in Moss, Norway. In May last year, a man showed up here who asked Iranian and Afghan asylum seekers if they needed help.
They were given a free SIM card and offered help with their asylum cases. Far too late did the asylum seekers realise that the man was in fact working for the Iranian authorities in Norway.
An Iranian asylum seeker, whom NRK has been in contact with, was one of those who fell into the trap, and who now wishes to tell his story. He was given an offer that was hard to refuse:
“They offered to give me cash and to pay for my legal fees. They told me that if I was not granted asylum, they could send me to another country to seek asylum there. In one of the meetings, they gave me equipment for making sound recordings”, he told NRK.
In return, he was asked to make secret voice recordings of meetings held by the Iranian opposition in Norway. He was also asked to identify those who had important roles in the Norway-based Iranian opposition.
“The embassy can help”
There is no doubt in his mind that the Iranian embassy was behind the attempt to recruit him for illegal bugging operations on Iranian opposition circles in Norway:
“I told them that making sound recordings is espionage, and that it is a criminal offence in Norway. If the police arrest me, who will help me? They answered me that the embassy can help with this part of the job.”
The asylum seeker was specifically told to monitor defected Iranian diplomat Mohammad Reza Heydari, who was previously employed at the Iranian Embassy in Oslo.
Preventing the establishment of a strong opposition
Heydari now confirms to NRK that Iran carries out extensive espionage operations inside Norway against the Norway-based Iranian opposition by recruiting people who are in a precarious situation.
“The activities that Iran carries out through its embassies include approaching people who are suffering from economic or psychological problems because they cannot travel to Iran. Another method is to identify them and to establish contact with them by way of other people who are in touch with the embassy. These people are then used to implement Iran’s goals, which are to create division and conflict between groups operating in Norway”, he says.
After the re-election of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009, Iran stepped up its surveillance of the opposition operating outside Iran through its embassies. This also applies to Norway, sources in Iranian opposition circles in Norway have told NRK.
“Iran’s policy against its own nationals abroad basically boils down to doing everything possible to prevent the establishment of a strong opposition against the regime outside the country.”
The Norwegian Police Security Service (PST) is aware of this problem too, commonly referred to in Scandinavia as “refugee espionage”. According to information obtained by NRK, PST pays particular attention to refugee espionage conducted by Iran.
“It is important to me that Norwegian society learns about this”, says the asylum seeker interviewed by NRK.
NRK has contacted the Iranian embassy in Oslo with regard to this case. The embassy has stated that it does not wish to comment on the contents of the report for the time being.
Published on Norwegian TV channel NRK on March 30. 2011
Source (Norwegian): http://www.nrk.no/nyheter/norge/1.7572429
English translation kindly provided by Anusche Noring