Egypt shuts down office of Iranian TV station

Authorities confiscated equipment and shut the office of Al-Alam TV as the two nations spar over controversial Iranian film about Sadat.

sadat 298 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
sadat 298 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Egyptian authorities have shut down the Cairo office of an Iranian TV network, a security official said Thursday, as the two nations spar over a controversial Iranian film about former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Authorities confiscated equipment and shut the office of Al-Alam TV on Monday because it was operating without a license, said the security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters. However, the head of Al-Alam's Cairo office, Ahmed al-Sayoufi, said the network has been wrongly accused of involvement in the production of the documentary about Sadat and that the steps against it were linked to those claims. The film, titled "Assassination of a Pharaoh," has caused offense in Egypt because it portrays Sadat's killer in a positive light and the Egyptian president as a traitor for making peace with Israel. The film triggered a formal diplomatic protest by Egypt and could threaten recent steps to restore relations between the two countries that were cut three decades ago. In Teheran, Hasan Abedini, the head of Al-Alam's newsroom, told The Associated Press that the state-run satellite news channel has no link with the film. Nonetheless, all of the station's news activities have been banned in Egypt, he said. Satellite customers in Egypt could still see the channel's Arabic-language broadcasts. The film was produced by the so-called Committee for the Commemoration of Martyrs, which is a body backed by hard-liners within the Iranian government but not considered government-run. The film aired earlier this month at a festival along with other documentaries for those whom the committee considers "martyrs," such as the Hizbullah commander Imad Mughinyeh, who was assassinated in February. The film justifies Sadat's killing by Islamic militants and calls the former Egyptian president a traitor for making peace with Israel in 1979. DVDs of the film included a cover with a picture of Sadat's assassin, Khaled el-Islambouli, shouting behind prison bars. Islambouli was one of the army officers who fired on Sadat during a military parade in 1981. Egypt executed him by firing squad soon thereafter. The Egyptian government condemned the film and Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit summoned the Iranian charge d'affairs in Egypt. Sadat's family filed lawsuits against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the Egyptian Football Association canceled a friendly match with Iran because of the film. Before the film aired, Egypt and Iran were on the road to restoring full relations 30 years after they were severed. Teheran cut ties after Egypt signed the peace agreement with Israel and provided asylum for the deposed Iranian Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. Iran's support for Iraqi Shi'ites, Lebanon's Hizbullah and Hamas has further strained relations, resulting in very limited diplomatic contacts between the two countries. In May, Ahmadinejad offered to restore ties with Egypt, a strong US ally. At the time, Ahmadinejad said his country was ready to open an embassy in Cairo as soon as Egypt agreed to do the same in Tehran. The Iranian president has since repeated his offer, most recently this month. But Egypt has also said that full diplomatic relations could only be restored if Iran takes down a large mural of Islambouli and changes the name of a street honoring him.