Protesters gathered outside the Iranian Embassy in Ottawa to denounce the actions of a diplomat they accuse of trying to spy on Canada’s Iranian community.
Members of several human rights and advocacy groups, including the Iran Democratic Association, allege that diplomat Hamid Mohammadi is trying to recruit and spy on Iranian-Canadians.
“They are giving $500 to everyone providing information, especially on Iranians who are active against the regime in Canada,” said Shahram Golestaneh of the Iran Democratic Association.
In an interview earlier this month with an Iran-based website whose content is directed at Iranian ex-patriates, Mohammadi said that Iranians living in Canada should be serving Tehran.
During the interview, Mohammadi said there were many Iranian-Canadians “working in influential government positions” and called on others to “occupy high-level and key positions.”
The interview prompted an outcry from the Department of Foreign Affairs, who last week released a statement strongly condemning the words of Mohammadi and warning the embassy from interfering in the lives of Iranians who’ve settled in Canada.
And now Iranian human rights activists are also slamming the embassy, alleging that it frequently uses intimidation tactics to gather information on Iranian-Canadians.
Protesters accused the embassy of collecting information about family members back in Iran to influence Iranians living in Canada.
Shadi Paveh, an Iranian-Canadian activist told CTV News from Kingston that the embassy “threatens to hurt families in Iran or to hurt them personally and physically.”
And some activists in Canada who actively speak out against the regime, say they have already experienced forms of intimidation.
In 2011 Fred Litwin’s film “Iranium” was pulled from a screening at the National Library and Archives because the embassy objected to its content.
The documentary film was eventually shown after Heritage Minister James Moore stepped in. However, security at the screening was stepped up after the library received envelopes full of powder and suspicious contents.
All of this has Canadian security officials concerned.
Former CSIS agent Geoffrey O’Brian told CTV News that the embassy runs an infiltration operation under the guise of a cultural exchange program.
Through the program, the embassy pays for students in Iran to study in Canada, he said.
When asked about the allegations, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said: “We take threats very seriously. We are very much aware of what the Iranians are up to.”
CTV News requested an interview with officials from the Iranian Embassy over these allegations, but the embassy did not respond.
With a report from CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife