Iran says US-funded cyber network group busted
Farhad Pouladi – AFP March 14, 2010
Iran has busted what it says was a US-funded cyber network group linked to an exiled opposition movement that collected data on its nuclear scientists, state media reported on Saturday.
Thirty members of the network with links to the outlawed People's Mujahedeen and monarchists have been arrested, Fars news agency said, quoting a statement from the Tehran prosecutor's office.
State-owned Press TV said Iranian authorities have asked Interpol to arrest two other prominent members of the cyber network group.
One of the two leaders whose arrest is sought by Iran is Ahmad Batebi, a prominent student activist who fled the Islamic republic in 2007 after serving nine years in prison, the English-language channel said.
He is reportedly in the United States and has regularly appeared on opposition television channels criticising human rights violations in Iran.
Press TV named the other wanted leader only as Rafie and also reported that the cyber network group gave a "wrong death toll" on the post-election violence in Iran.
Dozens of people were killed when supporters of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's rivals clashed with security forces following the hardliner's disputed re-election last June.
Fars said that according to the prosecutor's office the "busted cyber network group was funded by the United States and comprised of members from the exiled People's Mujahedeen and monarchists."
The prosecution said the main members who were in Iran have been arrested inside the country, while "the Interpol has been informed to take action against some who live in the United States."
"The funds given to the cyber network group were allocated by the administration of (former president) George W. Bush to launch a cyber war against Iran," Fars quoted the statement as saying.
"The cyber network group allowed Iranians to access the Internet by bypassing state filtering systems."
It said the group "waged psychological war against the Islamic Republic of Iran, organised and encouraged people to take part in illegal gatherings, collected information on nuclear scientists and gave information to spy agencies."
The People's Mujahedeen has in the past reportedly passed on information on Iran's nuclear programme which the West suspects is aimed at making atomic weapons, a charge denied by Tehran.
The group, however, is classed as a terrorist organisation by the United States.
It accuses Ahmadinejad's administration of committing rights abuses and recklessly pursuing nuclear weapons, and it supports international sanctions on Iran with the aim of regime change.
In January, Iran's state media blamed the People's Mujahedeen, the United States and Israel for a bomb attack which killed nuclear scientist Massoud Ali Mohammadi in Tehran.
Mohammadi, a lecturer at Tehran University, died when a bomb strapped to a motorcycle was triggered by remote control outside his home in the northern Tehran neighbourhood of Qeytariyeh.
The People's Mujahedeen denied involvement, while Washington dismissed the accusation of a US role as "absurd."
Last updated 18/03/2010