An Iranian journalist imprisoned in that country without trial since June 2009 is suing telecommunications concern Nokia Siemens for allegedly providing the surveillance equipment that led to his capture.
Isa Saharkhiz went into hiding following Iran's 2009 presidential elections, after publishing an article branding the Grand Ayatollah as a hypocrite who was primarily responsible for vote tallies widely regarded as being fraudulent. According to a complaint filed in federal court in Virginia, officials with the Ministry of Intelligence and Security in Iran tracked him down with the help of cellphone-monitoring devices and other eavesdropping gear provided by Nokia Siemens.
“Defendants knowingly and willingly delivered very capable and sophisticated equipment for unlawful intercepting, monitoring, and filtering of electronic communications ('Intelligence Solutions') to Iranian officials,” the complaint alleged. “In effect, defendants are directly involved in the unlawful censoring and monitoring of journalists, activists, and citizens in Iran by supplying the government of Iran with the technology needed to perform interceptions, monitoring, controls, content filtering, deep packing filtering and network scanning.”
According to the document, Saharkhiz has been severely tortured since his arrest. He was held in solitary confinement for more than 80 days, and his ribs were broken in a struggle durring his arrest. The complaint said it may be amended to add as many as 1,500 other political prisoners who are being held under similar circumstances. Additional defendants may also be added.
The defendants named so far in the case are accused of supplying “intelligence monitoring centers” used by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in 2008. As long ago as October 2007, the group was cited by the US State Department for its support of terrorism.
“The technology supplied by defendants allows Iranian government authorities to monitor any communications across a network, which includes voice calls, text messages, instant messages, and web traffic,” the complaint alleged. “This monitoring system can also interrogate data to see what information is being passed back and forth.”
The allegations against Nokia Siemens echo those made in February by members of the European Parliament.
Nokia Siemens said then that the criticism was based on a misunderstanding of the use of its technology in Iran. It responded to the most recent allegations in a statement that read:
"The Saharkhiz lawsuit is brought in the wrong place, against the wrong party and on the wrong premise. The Saharkhizes allege brutal treatment by the government in Iran, but they have not sued that government. Instead, they are seeking to blame Nokia Siemens Networks for the acts of the Iranian authorities by filing a lawsuit in the U.S., a country that has absolutely no connection to the issue they are raising." ®