Lobby group calls for MTN sanctions

United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), a lobbying group led by former US ambassador to the United Nations Mark Wallace, has called for sanctions to be imposed on MTN “for its business in Iran and its role in facilitating human rights abuses against the Iranian people”.

Iran’s first round of the presidential elections is set to take place on 14 June.

UANI accuses MTN of being the world’s most “egregious corporate actor” when it comes to Iran, and has accordingly listed it first on its “Most Wanted” list.

MTN is a 49% shareholder in MTN Irancell; the majority 51% is owned and controlled by the regime itself, UANI stated.

It added that during the 2009 Iranian presidential elections, the Iranian government utilized MTN Irancell’s network and technology to block and monitor the communications of dissidents, leading to the unlawful arrest, detention and torture of Iranian citizens.

“Shamefully, MTN also carried out orders from the regime to shut off SMS messaging and Skype.”

UANI called on MTN to immediately exit Iran, or face the full force of the US government sanctions. “MTN should be blacklisted for its violation of a number of US sanctions. UANI is building on the efforts of like-minded legislators and policymakers, such as Senator James Inhofe, to take action against MTN,” the lobby group said.

In a letter to MTN Group President and CEO Sifiso Dabengwa, UANI CEO, Ambassador Mark D. Wallace, wrote:

… MTN’s poor record on human rights in Iran is already well established. During the 2009 election protests, MTN Irancell reportedly ordered its Chinese telecommunications partner Huawei to suspend text messaging and block the Internet phone service Skype on its network in order to disrupt communications among demonstrators.

“According to reports, MTN Irancell had also been supplied with the technology to filter, block and store text messages by the Irish telecom company AdaptiveMobile in 2008. Iranian security forces had access to this technology and misused it for their own repressive surveillance and censorship purposes. MTN Irancell was also reportedly capable of intercepting and recording telephone communications through equipment provided by Nokia Siemens Networks.”

UANI said that as Iranian citizens’ opposition to the regime continued through 2009, MTN Irancell sought to acquire location-tracking technology in order to pinpoint the exact whereabouts of democratic dissidents.

And in 2011, Creativity Software reportedly sold MTN Irancell an even more advanced location tracking system that has the capability to record a user’s location data every fifteen seconds, and generate reports of that individual’s movements.

The lobby group claims that Iran’s security forces have access to this tracking technology and have misused it to locate, detain, and interrogate anti-government demonstrators.

“Even more troubling are reports that Iranian security officials are given open access to subscriber details at MTN Irancell’s Tehran headquarters, which have been used to acquire information on democracy activists,” it said.

UANI warned that the situation could deteriorate even further for MTN if MTN Irancell were to be sanctioned under US sanctions law pertaining to human rights in Iran.

“Given its facilitation of human rights abuses in Iran and violations of US trade controls as documented above, it is quite clear that the MTN Irancell network should be blacklisted for its violation of a number of US sanctions bills and presidential executive orders.”

UANI has requested a response from MTN by June 10, 2013.

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Lobby group calls for MTN sanctions