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Iranian-born Liberal MP Majid Jowhari’s history of a cozy stance toward his home country took a dark turn last week after he was accused of being a paid agent of the Khamenei regime on Farsi television in the United Kingdom.
The allegation was made by Alireza Sassanian, a freelance journalist and close associate of the late-Iranian intelligence dissident Masoud Molavi who was murdered this past November in Istanbul.
“Masoud talked to me about someone by the name of Majid Jowhari. He’s a member of the Parliament of Canada. He’s from the Liberal Party, representing Richmond Hill,” Sassanian told the programme’s host Alireza Nourizadeh.
Nourizadeh is a journalist, expert in contemporary Iranian history and another Iranian dissident who hosts a weekly program called Window on the Fatherland for the Iran-e Farda (Iran of Tomorrow) network, where Sassanian has been a frequent guest.
In the December 11th episode, the pair discussed the regime’s global influence in the context of Molavi’s killing, which U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed on Iranian assassins.
Molavi had fled the regime to live in Turkey where he published information about the corruption of Iranian officials before he was shot to death in Istanbul by an unknown assailant.
During the 40-minute interview in Farsi, Sassanian said tentacles of Iran’s political influence reached not just into regional governments of Syria and Iraq, but beyond to Canada and “the Democrats in the U.S.”
“(Molavi) said that Jowhari was in touch with some of the intelligence officers of Iran, and that he even visited the representatives of (Hossein) Taeb and Mojtaba Khamenei. He even received financial support from these people.”
Taeb is a commander of the regime’s intelligence network for the Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) while Mojtaba is the son of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The Canadian man who posted excerpts of the interview to social media Sunday is Kaveh Shahrooz, a Liberal Party member who ran against Jowhari in 2014 for the Richmond Hill nomination and lost.
“Within the Iranian community in Canada there’s an awful lot of rumours about Jowhari’s ties to the regime but this is the first time someone with potential ties to Iranian intelligence has actually come out and stated something about the connection,” explained Shahrooz of why he proliferated the clips on Twitter.
“If people want to attribute this to sour grapes they can, but I think there’s enough questions about this person that people ought to take this seriously and really be concerned about Iranian government’s foreign influence, be it through this MP or be it through other means.”
Shahrooz fled Iran with his family at 10 years of age and now works as a lawyer “fairly active on human rights issues in Iran”, and is a senior research fellow for Macdonald Laurier Institute specializing on in-country foreign influence campaigns.
He said that he has “no idea if the allegations are true but they are consistent with Mr. Jowhari’s public positions of the past”, and as Senator Linda Frum suggested in her retweet of the video, Shahrooz said he, “simply want(s) the RCMP and CSIS to investigate.”
Asked to elaborate on Jowhari’s record, Shahrooz cited his pro-Iran “relation normalization” motion in the House of Commons, courting Iranian politicians in Richmond Hill and more recent social media activity, all widely panned by in-country critics of the regime and opposition MPs.
“When there were mass protests in Iran in 2017, he tweeted that he hoped the Iranian people would sit down with their “elected-government”, the very government that was slaughtering them in the streets, and talk through their issues,” Shahrooz said.
“It gives you a window into how he views the Iranian regime. He’s very sympathetic towards them.”
On Tuesday, TPM made inquires about Jowhari’s mention on Window on the Fatherland to the Liberal Party’s Richmond Hill Riding Association, to Jowhari and the Prime Minister’s Office.
By late-Tuesday afternoon CBC and Postmedia had reported on Jowhari’s full-throated denial of the “false and unfounded” accusations of Sassanian.
“Without a shred of evidence, I have been accused of having connections to officials with the Islamic Republic of Iran,” reads Johari’s statement that TPM received at 11:25 p.m. Tuesday night.
But the Richmond Hill MP met with Iranian officials of a different variety back in November 2016 at his constituency office, while Foreign Affairs was completely unaware he was hosting the delegation of Iranian parliamentarians.
The meeting drew significant criticism at the time and one for which then- Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion’s office publicly disavowed.
Official diplomatic ties between Canada and Iran were severed 2012 after then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper listed the regime as a state sponsor of terror, closed the Canadian embassy in Tehran and tossed their diplomats from Ottawa.
While the United States officially declared the IRGC a terrorist group in April 2019, the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau supported a Conservative motion to do the same thing in June of 2018, but has yet to follow through.
Currently, Canada lists Iran’s al Quds, considered IRGC’s unconventional military wing, as a terrorist group.
Jowhari’s soft-stance on Iran has manifested itself in other ways too noted Richard Rupp, who served as the president of the Liberal’s Richmond Hill riding association between 2013 and 2018, and recalls the Liberal MP’s freshman days as a member of parliament.
“One of his first acts as an MP was to sponsor a petition to re-open the embassies with Iran and re-engage with the regime… which a number of people here felt was questionable,” Rupp told TPM.
“He also flew out to Vancouver to promote this petition. So a number including myself were concerned–why would you do this if our riding is here in Ontario? This may only benefit the riding in a very tangental way.”
Days before the October 21 election, as Iranian diaspora picketed Jowhari’s constituency office for his pro-regime leanings, Rupp was one of five prominent Liberals to sign an email signalling they could not endorse or vote for their Richmond Hill incumbent.
Other signatories included the riding’s former Liberal MPP and cabinet minister Reza Moridi, Bryon Wilfert, former Liberal MP for the riding and Brampton Centre MP Sarkis Assadourian.
“I know him very, very well being his riding president and having seen him in action, I had completely lost confidence in him as an MP and candidate,” said Rupp, who like Shahrooz said he had no proof that Jowhari was a paid asset for Iran.
“I want to be very specific on that. I can’t say he had any connections with the regime whatsoever. But in reading articles in the newspaper and a number of different people in the Iranian community saying things, it does make you wary.”
One of these newspaper articles involved a February 2018 fundraiser Jowhari held that the riding association rejected, then later learned was under investigation by the Elections Commissioner, as reported in the Globe and Mail.
“Let’s just say it was only advertised to a select group of the Iranian community and a number of questions arose from that so the riding association voted down that fundraiser,” said Rupp noting that anti and pro-regime camps among Iranian diaspora is “a very big issue”.
“It’s a big matter in the Iranian diaspora of Richmond Hill. Because Richmond Hill, I believe has the first or second largest percentage of Iranians in Canada,” he noted.
“So there are Iranians who are against the regime and there are Iranians, for whatever reason have connections, or want to maintain positive connections with the regime.”
Both Shahrooz and Rupp said that Jowhari’s questionable conduct as an MP goes beyond Iran, including the contentious fundraiser, a personal bankruptcy that he concealed from riding association members and his lie about professional engineering credentials.
In 2016, Jowhari was called onto the carpet by the Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO) and agreed to offer a public letter of apology and a donation after telling constituents during a 2015 riding debate that he was an engineer.
In his apology, Jowhari wrote that he was a licensed engineer between 1995 and 1999, until it was cancelled for non-payment of dues.
“There are enough issues that I think any other candidate or MP with this background would’ve been jettisoned,” said Shahrooz, noting Jowhari’s election victory in his 905 riding where neighbouring Liberals won by landslides, was by the narrowest of margins; 220 votes.
“So it’s not like he’s immensely popular but he’s widely known to be incompetent and he’s been nothing but a liability for the Liberal Party and yet they stick with him and they allow him to run.”
As of publication, TPM was unable to independently verify allegations made against Jowhari.