LONDON — An Austrian national was found guilty in a U.K. court Wednesday of spying for a group that may have been preparing to attack an independent Iranian TV station in London.
Magomed-Husejn Dovtaev, who is originally from Chechnya, was convicted by a jury at the Old Bailey court in central London following a short trial.
The 31-year-old had pleaded not guilty to possession of records containing information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.
He was detained by counterterrorism officers in west London on February 11.
Prosecutors said at his trial that Dovtaev boarded a plane from Vienna to London to gather “hostile reconnaissance” on a building occupied by the Persian-language channel Iran International.
The channel’s journalists had reported on alleged human rights violations in the country.
The Iranian government declared Iran International a terrorist organization after it reported on protests sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini. She died in September 2022 after her arrest in Tehran for an alleged breach of the Islamic republic’s strict dress code for women.
Amini’s death triggered months of nationwide demonstrations under the slogan “Woman, Life, Freedom.”
The prosecution argued that the Iranian authorities’ attitude toward Iran International had made its employees “targets for violent reprisals.”
Dovtaev is to be sentenced Friday and faces up to 15 years in prison.
In response to the verdict, Iran International said the trial was a reminder of the threats that journalists and news organizations face.
“Today’s verdict sends a clear message that the U.K. remains a bastion of free speech where threats against journalists will not be tolerated,” it said.
“We will not be cowed by threats. Our journalists will continue to provide the independent, uncensored news the people of Iran deserve.”