Spy agency investigates ‘credible’ Iranian death threats against individuals in Canada
Canada’s spy agency is actively investigating what it calls several « credible » death threats from Iran targeting individuals in Canada, CBC News has learned.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service said it was aware that state actors from the Islamic Republic of Iran were monitoring and intimidating people inside Canada to silence those who publicly denounced the regime.
« CSIS is actively investigating several threats to life emanating from the Islamic Republic of Iran based on credible intelligence, » CSIS spokesman Eric Balsam said in a statement to CBC News.
« Ultimately, these hostile activities and foreign interference undermine the security of Canada and Canadians, as well as our democratic values and our sovereignty. »
This is the first time the agency has confirmed several ongoing investigations involving what it calls « deadly threats against Canadians and persons located in Canada » emanating from Iran.
The details were released to CBC News after Britain’s domestic intelligence chief revealed on Wednesday that the UK faces a major security threat from Iran, Russia and China – countries the UK accuses of using violence and intimidation abroad to pursue their interests.
Over the past two months, demonstrators have taken to the streets in Iran to protest against the regime. The massive protests were sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested by so-called vice police and died in police custody after allegedly wearing her hijab improperly.
At least 326 people – including teenagers and children – have been killed during the protests in Iran, according to the Norwegian organization Iran Human Rights. Iranian authorities maintain strict control over this information, however, and the numbers could be even higher.
MI5, the UK’s national counter-intelligence agency, said Iran’s intelligence services were targeting dissidents abroad whom they « perceive as enemies of the regime ».
Ken McCallum, director general of MI5, said Iran was responsible for at least 10 potential threats to kidnap or kill British or UK-based people this year.
« Iran is projecting a direct threat to the UK, through its aggressive intelligence services, » McCallum said.
« The Foreign Secretary made it clear to the Iranian regime last week that the UK would not tolerate intimidation or death threats towards journalists or anyone living in the UK »
Last year, the Government of Canada condemned Iran’s « pattern of intimidation and foreign interference » after US authorities laid charges in an alleged Iranian plot to kidnap five people and take them to Iran – including three people from Canada.
Family members in Canada who criticized the Iranian government after they lost loved ones in the downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 in 2020 also reported to the RCMP that they had been the target of threats and intimidation from Tehran. Flight 752 was shot down by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) shortly after takeoff on January 8, 2020, killing all 176 passengers and crew on board.
CSIS said in its 2021 annual report that it continues to « investigate credible reports » involving « threat actors linked to proxies of the Islamic Republic of Iran. »
LOOK/Families of Flight 752 victims report threats
Dennis Horak, Canada’s former charge d’affaires in Iran, said kidnappings and murders of people abroad have been part of the Iranian regime’s agenda for decades. He said the latest threats are a reminder of the nature of the regime.
« It’s a regime that doesn’t follow international rules and never has, » said Horak, who worked at the Canadian embassy in Tehran from 2009 until it closed in 2012.
From the late 1980s to the 1990s, several Iranian dissidents disappeared or were killed abroad.
Iranian agents assassinated Sadegh Sharafkandi, the leader of the Democratic Party of Kurdistan of Iran, in Berlin in a restaurant. The Germans pursued the case and issued international arrest warrants in 1997 for senior Iranian regime officials.
Horak said it was rare for MI5 to reveal the number of attempts, which could signal the agency’s level of concern.
« The Brits may think the Iranians have nothing to lose at this point in terms of international boundaries, so they may step up and go after some of the people who are making the most noise about what’s happening at the level. nationwide,” he said.
CSIS said it could not comment on specific cases on Canadian soil, but was working with domestic and international partners and the Iranian-Canadian community.