Saeed KarimianThe head of an Iranian satellite television network channel who last year was sentenced in absentia to six years in prison by a Tehran court was shot dead in Istanbul together with a Kuwaiti business partner, Turkey’s Dogan news agency said on Sunday.
GEM TV founder Saeed Karimian and another Iranian were driving in Istanbul’s Maslak neighbourhood after 8 p.m. (1700 GMT) on Saturday when their car was stopped by a jeep and shots were fired, Dogan said.
Karimian was found dead by emergency services arriving at the scene, Dogan said. His associate was taken to hospital but could not be revived.
It was not clear if there were multiple shooters. The jeep was later found abandoned and burned. Istanbul police declined to comment on the shooting when contacted by Reuters.
Dogan quoted the mayor of Istanbul’s Sariyer district as saying initial police findings suggested the shooting may have been prompted by a financial disagreement involving Karimian.
GEM TV is known for entertainment satellite channels that dub foreign films and Western television programmes into Farsi for Iranians. It also produces movies and TV series.
But in Iran, where the government tries to instil Islamic values by strictly regulating popular culture, the satellite broadcaster’s programming has angered authorities, who view it as part of a cultural “soft war” waged by the West.
Last year a Revolutionary Court in Tehran tried Karimian in absentia and sentenced him to six years in jail on charges of “acting against national security” and “propaganda against the state”.
Family members told the BBC’s Jiyar Gol that Karimian had been threatened by the regime the past three months, and as a result was planning to leave Istanbul and move back to London.
Gem Group was initially established in London, but later expanded to Dubai. According to the group’s website, it has 17 Persian-language channels, plus one each in Kurdish, Azeri and Arabic.