Austrian man ‘spied on Iranians in Britain for potential terrorist attack’

Magomed-Husejn Dovtaev allegedly gathered 'hostile reconnaissance' on building used by TV network

Iran International offices in London are guarded by police.
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An Austrian man spied on the headquarters of a Persian-language television channel based in London for a group who may have been “preparing to attack” its staff, a court heard.

Iran International, whose journalists have reported on human rights violations in Iran, was allegedly the subject of “hostile reconnaissance” by Magomed-Husejn Dovtaev, 31, as part of a planned terror attack.

Mr Dovtaev, originally from Chechnya, sought to “identify and exploit” vulnerabilities in the company’s security at its premises in west London's Chiswick Business Park, the court heard.

Mr Dovtaev told security guards who questioned him that he was visiting the area to meet a friend, but was later arrested by counter-terrorism police after he was seen filming the building on his phone.

The Austrian national appeared for trial at London’s Old Bailey on Monday, charged with collecting information for a person likely preparing an act of terrorism.

Nicholas De La Poer KC, prosecuting, told a jury that Mr Dovtaev’s visit to Iran International on February 11 was the most recent in a series of similar visits by “others unknown”.

“The prosecution’s case is that he was not there to meet a friend or to look at the scenery,” he said.

“The prosecution’s case is that he was carrying out hostile reconnaissance.

“He had travelled to the UK in order that any vulnerabilities (in security) could be identified and exploited.”

Iran International TV resumes operations from London – video

Iran International TV resumes operations from London

Iran International TV resumes operations from London

Mr De La Poer explained that the Iranian government declared the broadcaster a terrorist organisation after it reported on protests sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in 2022 following her detainment by the country’s morality police.

“The prosecution’s case is that as a result of the Iranian authorities’ attitude towards Iran International, the organisation and its employees all became targets for violent reprisals,” he continued.

“As such, the security at their place of work was of very real and practical interest to those who might wish to carry out such reprisals.

“It is the prosecution’s case that the defendant, no doubt acting on the instructions of others, went to the Chiswick Business Park for the purpose of gathering information about the security arrangements around Iran International.

“Such information would be useful to anyone preparing to attack.

“The very fact that the defendant went to collect this information shows that planning by others was already under way.

“As we shall come to see, there is other evidence as well which demonstrates that the defendant’s visit was the most recent in a sequence of such visits by others unknown.”

The trial continues.

Updated: December 11, 2023, 7:03 PM