The ruling came following a lawsuit filed by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) against FAZ over its slanderous and defamatory allegations against the MEK and its members residing in Albania.
FAZ has since deleted the relevant passages from its May 13, 2020 article entitled, “The Devil Should Be Living in Tirana”.
The court also ordered the newspaper to not repeat the allegations, which the MEK argues were part of a demonization campaign by Iran’s Intelligence Ministry with the help of some foreign Iran-friendly journalists.
The paper had quoted so-called ‘ex-members’ of the MEK, which the group says were in fact Iranian intelligence agents, as claiming that the MEK tortured dissident members. It also claimed members were forbidden from contacting their relatives and possessing mobile phones. The third allegation struck down by the court was that MEK members were transferred from Iraq to Albania with the help of Saudi Arabia.
The Hamburg court ruled that it should be assumed that all these allegations are untrue. It added that even if FAZ had only presented the claims as ‘allegations’, still the “principles of permissible reporting” have not been observed, and the MEK and NCRI have not been properly heard.
FAZ was ordered to bear all the court costs. It was also ordered to pay a fine of up to €250,000 to be determined by the court for each case of a violation of the court order. If this amount cannot be secured, a detention order for up to a maximum of six months (for each item in place of the maximum fine of 250,000 Euros, for a total of a maximum of two years) will be issued.
After the publication of the article on FAZ.net, the NCRI’s German Representative Office had contacted the paper’s editorial board and provided documents refuting its allegations. The paper only removed three blatant errors but kept others on its website. The NCRI then filed a judicial complaint against FAZ.
In a separate ruling on March 21, 2019, a Hamburg court issued an injunction, ordering the German magazine Der Spiegel to remove two similar defamatory allegations in its February 16, 2019 issue against the MEK and MEK members in Albania and to not repeat them. Like FAZ, Der Spiegel was threatened with a fine up to €250,000 or up to six months’ imprisonment for each violation. Der Spiegel removed the relevant parts from the pdf version of the magazine on its German and English websites.
Iran’s regime has suffered a string of setbacks in recent years. These include the MEK’s relation to Albania, nationwide Iran protests demanding regime change, and the end of the US policy of appeasement toward Iran. During this time, Tehran has resorted to intense terrorism and disinformation campaigns against the MEK, believing this to be a remedy to its existential crisis. By spreading fake news, the regime justifies its massacre of MEK members in Iran and prepares the ground for its terrorist operations on European soil. Additionally, it presents a lie to Western circles that there is no alternative to this regime and that if it were overthrown, the conditions in Iran would be worse.