UK office of Iran’s supreme leader given almost £240,000 in British taxpayer money

Funding granted for a second time despite the Islamic Centre of England being criticised by the Charity Commission

A UK charity is facing an inquiry after one of its trustees criticised protesters in Iran. PA
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The UK office of Iran’s supreme leader has been given almost £240,000 ($290,020) in British taxpayer money, despite receiving an official warning after an unofficial speaker praised a designated terrorist at an event it held.

The Islamic Centre of England, which is run by the UK representative of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, received funding for a second time from the government’s Covid-19 furlough programme, its latest accounts show.

Last year, The National reported that the centre had been awarded £109,476 in 2020, even though it had been given an official warning in June of that year.

The warning came after an unofficial speaker, Massoud Shadjareh, praised the former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Qassem Suleimani as “a great martyr” and a “dedicated soldier of Islam”, after he was killed by a US drone strike in January 2020.

Suleimani had been designated as a terrorist by the UK.

Mr Shadjareh had not been authorised to speak at the event, but trustees did nothing to intervene, the Charity Commission said.

In its annual accounts filed last month, the centre revealed that the UK Treasury had given it £129,556 over the past year under its Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

The charity, whose 2022 accounts show it has more than £4.2 million in reserve, was given the second round of funding after it received the official warning.

The Treasury did not immediately respond to The National's request for comment.

This week, the Charity Commission launched another statutory inquiry into the centre after a trustee made controversial remarks about protesters in Iran.

In a recent speech, Seyed Hashem Moosavi described the protesters as “soldiers of Satan”.

Roham Alvandi, an associate professor of international history at the London School of Economics, has previously criticised the government for giving the centre funding.

“It is one thing to tolerate views we might find repugnant. That is the price we pay for free speech in a free society,” he told The Times in September, before the latest accounts were published.

“It is quite another for the UK to allow Khamenei to send a personal envoy to London, subsidised by British taxpayers, to spread propaganda. Surely it is time for the Home Secretary Suella Braverman to tell Moosavi to pack his bags.”

The latest investigation by the regulator came after the group posted a 45-minute video on social media featuring Mr Moosavi's comments.

Kasra Aarabi, from the Tony Blair Institute, said on Twitter the centre should be closed.

“The UK government must take action against the Islamic Centre of England, (Khamenei’s London office). It’s clear the views propagated at the centre are a direct threat to British values and citizens. The centre should be shut down and Khamenei’s representatives should be expelled,” he said.

The Charity Commission announced its inquiry this week.

“The regulator’s decision follows extensive engagement with the charity over recent years, which has included issuing the charity with an official warning,” it said in a statement.

“The warning followed two events held at the charity’s premises in 2020 that eulogised Maj Gen Qassem Suleimani, who is subject to UK sanctions.

“A follow-up case in 2021 concluded that the charity was only partially compliant with the actions set out in the official warning and identified further regulatory concerns.

“These included concerns about the content of the charity’s website and the trustees’ management of conflicts of interest, and led to the commission issuing an action plan.

“The commission has identified that the trustees have failed to fully comply with the action plan and official warning and a number of further regulatory concerns remain.

“The commission has therefore opened a statutory inquiry into the charity.”

The commission indicated that Mr Moosavi's speech deviated from undertakings made by the trustees following an earlier inquiry.

The centre has not responded to a request for comment.

In its accounts, it has stated that it is “fully compliant” with the Charity Commission's requests.

Updated: November 25, 2022, 6:02 PM
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