Spy link to carpet shop strange, sad, says owner

2015-02-26 12:45
(File: Al Jazeerah)

(File: Al Jazeerah)

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Cape Town - The owner of a Persian carpet trade shop in Bellville, Cape Town, has expressed both his surprise and sadness at being linked to alleged secret Iranian intelligence operations in the country through a leaked State Security Agency document.

On Wednesday, News24 reported on some of the surprise targets of a 128-page State Security Agency document called “Operational Target Analysis in Iran”, one of the documents in a wider leak of classified state information known as the spy cables.

The top-secret brief detailed some of the smaller companies being monitored by the SSA on suspicion the Iran intelligence agency could be using them as fronts for operations in South Africa, among other things.

These included a Persian carpet trade shop in Bellville, Cape Town, called Persian World.

News24 spoke to the owner of Persian World, Sadegh Kiyaei, on Thursday. He said he was surprised and sad after being inundated with phone calls from journalists from around the world.

Kiyaei said: “It [the alleged link] was strange, but also sad that it’s come from a legitimate organisation like the State Security Agency.

“I’m very surprised that we were published in a document that did not even do a basic investigation or even enquiries about this company.”

Among the suggestions in the report was that the business was also involved in the publishing of propaganda material allegedly linked to Iranian literature.

But Kiyaei refuted those suggestions as well, claiming that the books and texts his company were involved with were well-known, openly accessible to the public, and actually promoted further unity between the countries of Iran and South Africa, not opposition.  

“We’ve helped publish books and poems, and that’s about it. We published a book on Imam Haron’s life, who is a well-known figure, and poems by Tatamkhulu Afrika [a well-known South African poet]," he said.

“These books were also published by international houses. It’s nothing strange; they are in the national library.

“These are good companies doing positive work. They are making positive contributions between the two countries, not against.”

Unlikely targets

Other entities suggested as potential fronts for covert Iranian operations also included a guest house in Johannesburg, a religious foundation, an import and export company, as well as a publishing company which is no longer operational.

News24 spoke to the Iranian embassy in Pretoria on Wednesday. “The ambassador is very busy at the moment addressing the issue," a spokesperson said.

"We’ve been getting calls not only from News24 but from CNN and BBC, so we will put together a press statement shortly and hopefully that will answer some of these suggestions.”

The “Operational Target Analysis” document did conclude, though, that more information was still needed in order to make "a comprehensive threat assessment" on Iranian espionage activity in the country.

“The extent of Iranian intelligence involvement in South Africa... needs to be established," the report concluded.

- For more on the spy cables, click here or visit Al Jazeera.

Read more on:    ssa  |  cape town  |  iran  |  spy cables

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