DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — An Iranian court order has frozen the local assets of over 150 people associated with the BBC's Farsi-language service, the British broadcaster said on Tuesday, the latest effort by Tehran to crack down on the service's popular newscasts.
Iranian officials and state media did not immediately report on the order, which the BBC said banned current and former staff, as well as contributors, from "selling or buying property, cars and other goods."
The order, issued from a court at Tehran's notorious Evin prison, only came to light when a relative of a BBC Persian employee tried to sell a property on their behalf, the broadcaster said.
"It is appalling that anyone should suffer legal or financial consequences because of their association with the BBC," BBC World Service director Francesca Unsworth said in a statement. "We call upon the Iranian authorities to reverse this order urgently and allow BBC staff and former staff to enjoy the same financial rights as their fellow citizens."
The BBC's Farsi-language service is barred from working in Iran, though many Iranians listen to its radio shows and watch its satellite television broadcasts. Some 13 million people tune in, according to the broadcaster, hungry for news not being reported by the state-run channels allowed on the air in Iran.
The BBC's Farsi-language staffers have been targeted by Iran's government in the past, especially by hard-liners within the judiciary and security services.
The court order comes as Evin prison now holds Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman who works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of the news agency. She is serving a five-year prison sentence over allegations of planning the "soft toppling" of Iran's government while traveling there with her toddler daughter.