A foreign and commonwealth office spokeswoman said today that the move would cause offence around the world.
“President Ahmadinejad has during his time in office made a series of appalling anti-Semitic statements,” she said. “The British media are rightly free to make their own editorial choices, but this invitation will cause offence and bemusement not just at home but amongst friendly countries abroad.”
“Channel Four is aiding and abetting a tyrant. President Ahmadinejad is a torturer and a murderer. His regime executes children, journalists, Sunni Muslims, gay people, political activists and ethnic minorities. This is the equivalent of giving Robert Mugabe a prime-time television slot to promote his propaganda. It is an insult to more than 100,000 Iranian dissidents who have been slaughtered since the Islamic fundamentalists seized power in 1979,” said human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.
He was commenting on the decision by Britain’s Channel Four Television to broadcast the Iranian President delivering The Alternative Christmas Message on Christmas Day. It will be transmitted soon after the Queen delivers her traditional Christmas Message to the nation.
Mr Tatchell is calling on Channel Four to:
“Pull the plug on this criminal despot, who ranks with Robert Mugabe, Omar al-Bashir of Sudan and the Burmese military junta as one of the world’s most bloody tyrants.
“Channel Four executives would not being giving Ahmadinejad this propaganda coup if it was their partners or children who were being tortured in Evin prison, Tehran.
“This Christmas, thousands of Iranian families are grief-stricken. Their loved ones have been jailed, tortured and executed. Instead of inviting one of them deliver The Alternative Christmas Message, Channel Four is giving airtime to the man responsible for their loved ones’ suffering.
According to Channel Four’s advance text of President Ahmadinejad’s broadcast, his speech includes the following:
“Jesus, the Son of Mary, is the standard bearer of justice, of love for our fellow human beings, of the fight against tyranny, discrimination and injustice….
“If Christ were on earth today, undoubtedly He would hoist the banner of justice and love for humanity to oppose warmongers, occupiers, terrorists and bullies the world over….
“I pray for the New Year to be a year of happiness, prosperity, peace and brotherhood for humanity.”
“Ahmadinejad’s soft words are pure propaganda. They bear no relationship to the bloody, repressive policies that he is pursuing against his own people,” commented Mr Tatchell.
“Trade union, student and women’s rights activists are beaten, jailed and tortured. His government is pursuing a racist, ethnic cleansing policy against Iran’s minority nationalities, such as the Arabs, Kurds and Baluchs.
“According to Human Rights Watch, in March this year an Iranian parliament member, Hossein Ali Shahryari, confirmed that 700 people were awaiting execution in Sistan and Baluchistan province, which is only one of Iran’s many provinces. Many of those on death row are Baluch political prisoners. This staggering number of death sentences is evidence of the intense, savage repression that is taking place under the leadership of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
“In 2004, in the city of Neka, a 16 year old girl, Atefah Rajabi Sahaaleh, who had been raped and sexually abused by men for many years, was convicted of “crimes against chastity.” She was hanged by the method of slow, painful strangulation, hoisted by a crane in a public square. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/5217424.stm
“Ahmadinejad’s regime exports terrorism. He supports Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Badr Corps in Iraq, which kill innocent civilians and target dissidents for assassination. The Islamist death squads in Iraq are trained, armed and funded by Tehran. They murder anyone who does not conform to their harsh interpretation of Islam,” said Mr Tatchell.