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Imprisoned Iranian journalist sues Nokia Siemens over spying system

Tracked down by Nokia Siemens: Isa Saharkhiz went into hiding following Iran's 2009 presidential elections, after publishing an article branding the Grand Ayatollah as a hypocrite who was primarily responsible for vote tallies widely regarded as being fraudulent. According to a complaint filed in federal court in Virginia, officials with the Ministry of Intelligence and Security in Iran tracked him down with the help of cellphone-monitoring devices and other eavesdropping gear provided by Nokia Siemens.

An imprisoned Iranian journalist is suing Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) over allegations that the telecommunications company provided the Islamic regime with a monitoring system it used to spy on the opposition Green movement, according to the Guardian. Isa Saharkhiz, a prominent journalist and political figure, was arrested after last summer's disputed presidential election.

Saharkhiz, who is still in detention, discovered during his interrogation in Tehran's Evin prison that his whereabouts were revealed when security officials listened in to his mobile phone conversations using technology NSN allegedly sold to Iran, his son Mehdi told the Guardian.

Moawad & Herischi, a Maryland law firm, has submitted an official complaint to a federal court in the US state of Virginia, alleging that Saharkhiz was tortured and mistreated because of the government's monitoring of his conversations.

The details: [Link]

NSN has confirmed to the Guardian that it sold the Iranian regime a monitoring system called Lawful Interception Management System (LIMS) in 2008. The company insists the technology is standard equipment in use in dozens of countries, but Saharkhiz's lawyers argue that NSN could have sold its mobile phone service without the monitoring technology, which should not have been made available to a country with a record of human rights abuses. NSN said it halted all work related to monitoring in 2009.

"The monitoring system that NSN sold to Iran was subsidiary to the main network," Ali Herischi said. "They provided Iran with the network for many years before deciding to sell the spy system. My question is why they decided to provide Iran with the monitoring function when they knew that [the government] was abusing human rights and suppressing the opposition?"

NSN has acknowledged that LIMS has been used to suppress dissidents. "We believe that we should have understood the issues in Iran better in advance and addressed them more proactively," the company told a European parliament sub-committee on human rights in June. But it added: "When that technology is misused, accountability must sit with those who misuse it." Herischi said: "My client is just one example of hundreds of prisoners who have been arrested and tortured because the government found them through the NSN system."

In a statement, the company said Saharkhiz's lawsuit had been "brought in the wrong place, against the wrong party, and on the wrong premise".

The company continued: "It is true that all modern mobile communications networks include a lawful interception capability; this capability became a standard feature at the insistence of the United States and European nations. These countries needed the capability for law enforcement reasons that are common throughout the world. It is unrealistic to demand, as the Saharkhiz lawsuit does, that wireless communications systems based on global technology standards be sold without that capability." Herischi said the suit was brought in Virginia because NSN has an office there.

In July last year, the Guardian reported that NSN had been the subject of a boycott inside Iran after consumers sympathetic to the post-election protest movement targeted it and several other companies they accused of collaborating with the regime. Vendors in Tehran said that the demand for Nokia handsets dropped by as much as half in the wake of the boycott call. Although NSN has apparently stopped providing Iran with technical support for LIMS,the company continues to provide other mobile telephone services in Iran.

Date posted: August 25, 2010 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 225