The shooting dead of a UK media mogul of Iranian origin and his Kuwaiti partner on Saturday night on a busy Istanbul thoroughfare sparked a police manhunt with authorities trying to ascertain any international links behind the shooting.
Saeed Karimian and his Kuwaiti business partner, Mohammed al-Mukhtari, were travelling in their luxury vehicle in Istanbul’s upscale Maslak business district when a vehicle cut them off and assailants believed to be wearing chadors to disguise themselves riddled the car with bullets, using assault rifles, local media reports said.
Karimian died at the scene, while his business partner died later in hospital. The vehicle used by the assailants was later found discarded and torched in the Istanbul suburb of Kemerburgaz. Investigators are sifting through security camera footage from the vicinity of the shooting. They also interviewed witnesses at the scene of the assault.
Karimian was the founder of Gem TV, a subsidiary of the Gem Group he founded in London in 2006.
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On its website, the group says it is the premium Farsi language satellite broadcaster with a variety of entertainment and other programming.
Farsi-language satellite broadcasts are banned by the theocracy in Tehran. Owners and employees at such networks are routinely harassed by people linked to the Islamic Republic’s government.
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.
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”.
Apart from original programming, Gem TV dubs Western shows into Persian and beams its content into Iran over multiple free-to-air satellites and online. It also produces movies and TV series.
The company says on its website that it has expanded operations and currently has 24 channels, of which 21 broadcast in Farsi alongside one each broadcasting in Kurdish, Azeri and Arabic.
The company is also believed to hold the Gulf distribution rights for many of the hugely popular and lucrative Turkish television programmes.
In the mid-1990s, Istanbul was often the scene of gun battles between rival Turkish, Kurdish and Iranian gangs engaged in the lucrative trafficking of illicit narcotics to markets in Western Europe from Afghanistan, Iran and other countries in the Central Asian region.
Such incidents have become rare in the past decade, and there is no indication the slaying of Karimian was related to such matters.
Turkish news agency Dogan cited the mayor of Istanbul’s Sariyer district as saying initial police findings suggested the shooting may have been prompted by a financial disagreement involving Karimian.