Iranian TV executive shot dead in Istanbul, Turkish media report

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Saeed Karimian, GEM TV's founder, was found dead by emergency services. Photograph: Saeed Karimian/GemTV
The Iranian founder of a popular Farsi-language satellite television network has been shot dead in Istanbul alongside a Kuwaiti business partner, according to Turkish media, months after reportedly being convicted of spreading "propaganda" against the Islamic Republic.

GEM TV founder Saeed Karimian was travelling through Istanbul's Maslak neighbourhood after 8pm (1700 GMT) on Saturday when the car was blocked by a Jeep and shots were fired, Turkey's Doğan news agency said on Sunday.

Karimian was found dead by emergency services. His associate was taken to hospital but could not be revived.

Doğan described both victims as being of Iranian origin. Hürriyet Daily News identified Karimian as a British national and his associate as a Kuwaiti. 

In a statement on its Facebook page, GEM TV confirmed Karimian had died but did not make clear the circumstances of the death.

Hürriyet reported that two masked shooters got out of the Jeep before opening fire. The vehicle was later found abandoned and burned. Istanbul police declined to comment on the shooting.

Doğan quoted the mayor of Istanbul's Sarıyer 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 programmes into Farsi for Iranians. It also produces movies and TV series.

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.

While satellite television is popular in Iran, owning a satellite dish is illegal. Police and security forces occasionally smash dishes and seize receivers as authorities routinely denounce the western pop culture shown on satellite channels as decadent and un-Islamic.

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". 

Iran's semi-official Tasnim news agency, considered to be close to the country's hardline paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, described GEM as an opposition network and said Karimian had been given a prison sentence for "propaganda", without elaborating.

Associated Press contributed to this report

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