back to article Nokia Siemens slammed for supplying snoop tech to Iran

An Iranian journalist imprisoned in that country without trial since June 2009 is suing telecommunications concern Nokia Siemens for allegedly providing the surveillance equipment that led to his capture. Isa Saharkhiz went into hiding following Iran's 2009 presidential elections, after publishing an article branding the Grand …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    While I agree on principle

    ...that NS should not have sold that equipment to the government, I am sure that similar technology is being used in the US, UK etc. So "unlawful interception" is a term loaded with a political agenda. It was probably sold for lawful interception purposes to the Iranian government. It is very easy in hindsight to say that the Iranian government could not be trusted, but in fact until the last elections, which seem to have been rigged indeed, the Iranian government was no worse than many other governments in the world, many of which are backed by the US. But if the BNP gets to power in the UK and starts to use the already deployed technology for political prosecution, we surely would lay the blame on the government, not on the tools vendor.

    Oh and let's not get started with the theocracy thing, in fact, the UK political system is very similar in the level of democracy to what the Iranian system was: the head of the state is also the head of the church, unelected members of parliament, voting system designed to keep the two main parties alternating...

    So all in all there is definitely an element of cynical manipulation to slime a European corporation that doesn't follow every single recommendation by Uncle Sam.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: While I agree on principle

      What a nice academic study of the structure of the Iranian government! "Oh, I see that there's a head of state, so I'll write his name onto the line I've neatly drawn here with my ruler, but I'll do it in pencil in case I've spelt it wrong and have to rub it out later. Oh, isn't it interesting that the head of state is also like our head of the Church of England! Must jot that down as something to look up later!"

      Although the remark that "the Iranian government was no worse than many other governments in the world" is quite easily supported by pointing to some very nasty places, it bears the sentiment that somehow the Iranian regime's behaviour is not really below any acceptable humanitarian standards when everybody knows that the regime systematically and blatantly violates the basic human rights of its citizens.

      On that basis it's laughable that conditions under the Iranian regime bear comparison to those in the United Kingdom through a cursory "spot the difference" competition between the political systems. Even a shred of knowledge about how the religious authorities control politics and daily life in Iran is enough to ridicule your "it's just like Britain" nonsense with its tone of general but vocal ignorance.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nokia Siemens

    seems to be forgetting about the high technology export ban in the US. If it contains US technology, the sale fairly likely broken those laws.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      A big assumption

      You seem to be assuming that whatever Nokia Siemens supplied DID contain some US technology. Between them, Nokia and Siemens are more than capable of making this stuff themselves without using anything from the US. And even if they DID use US technology, they have broken no laws in Sweden or Germany, because there are no laws on Sweden or Germany that specifically say you can't export US technology, despite what the yanks may wish to believe.

      It sounds like NS should have had more morals than to supply this stuff (Iran hardly have a good track record on this sort of thing), but as for filing a law suite in an American court against a Swedish company for a "crime" committed in Iran - well, someone needs to give this guy a geography lesson.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Nokia is Finnish

        Nokia is a Finnish not Sweedish company, same principle different country.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Maybe broken the law..

      .. but it appears very compatible with the US desire to spy on everything, so why would other governments not be allowed to do the same?

  3. Nate Amsden

    what laws were broken?

    The victim claims all this stuff was unlawful, what laws were broken? Export control laws? He can't possibly think that Iranian laws were broken.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Load of crap

    What an absolute load of crap... So, the us/uk (or, in fact, any other) governments do not mandate operators and telecom equipment manufacturers to supply the state with monitoring capabilities?

    The guy is a moron, and only has himself to blame. when I was growing up in the soviet union, I was told by my parents not to speak oout against the state. I did not. All my ribs are in place.

    Iran is not exactly a testament to democracy and free speech, and there is no higher (earthly) authority than the iotolla - I know this, and I am not Iranian. I know not to badmouth the iotolla in Iran - and this Iranian guy does not?

    1. Anonymous Hero

      @AC - Load of crap

      No the guy is not a moron, he's a brave chap for pushing back against a country run by medieval fascist islamist dictators.

      People like this at the frontline of trying to establish and uphold human rights in countries that would have you jailed for eating the wrong breakfast cereal should be applauded.

      Yes some of us might want to keep our heads down for fear of otherwise having our bones broken, but when freedom and liberty is established and you can protest against what you don't like about your ruler, who will you be thanking?

  5. Richard Jukes

    Im tempted...

    Im tempted to say that this is more shit happening to some guy I dont know in some country really far away that I dont care about.

    However, viva democracy. Any country that gives someone a beating and locks them up because said person bad mouthed the ruling elite or indeed anyone is not exactly fair...Its on the steep road to facism.

    And Iran could be developing Nuclear Weapons? Scary. What would they have done if they had had Nuclear Weapons when certain papers were publishing cartoons about Mohammed? It does make one wonder.

  6. Mike Kamermans

    Clearly some readers require a minor explanation

    The problem isn't that Nokia/Siemens didn't supply other governments with identical equipment (what kind of nonsense arguments are we thinking up?). Virtually all other governments that are supplied the exact same machinery do not use it to arrest and torture hundreds to thousands of people for having an opinion that differs from the government's while proudly announcing they caught another dissident. Much as you want to hate [fill in your favourite western chauvinistic nation here], there are laws in place that forbid it, and when it does happen and is found out, all hell breaks loose. In a country such as Iran, you're arrested, beaten, tortured, and no one would dare speak out about the fact that that may possibly actually be unfair. Because they'll also be arrested, beaten and tortured.

    In this case, they may have a point if they sue on the basis that the companies knowingly and willingly contributing technology for the purpose of violating the universal rights of man (although the UN committee that regulates that concept is currently chaired by some of the most oppressive nations in the world, and no one seems to care, so maybe not).

    They may also have a point if they're sueing Nokia/Siemens because they have violated export laws in a number of countries, for selling high technology to one of the "you may not deal with this country on a military or intelligence level" nations.

    Finally, you can sue them -at least in the US, but probably at the international court too- for being willing accessories to various crimes, ranging from harassment and police brutality to manslaughter and murder in the first degree. Even if the crimes themselves were committed in a different country, the fact that Nokia/Siemens knows they would be committed by their contribution (rather than merely enabling them, which is very different, in Iran you know that any device you sell capable of spying on citizens will lead to arrests and torture) makes them accountable for the actions taken by others using their technology.

    So good luck to the lawyers. Feigning ignorance when it comes to a nation with a very long history of apprehending dissidents and beating them to within an inch *past* their lives doesn't really work.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "unlawful interception" - oh no it isn't

    It's not "unlawful interception", it's industry standard, made, sold, and used around the world, "lawful intercept".

    The Nokia Siemens in Iran kerfuffle was reported on this very site in June 2009 (coincidentally) and the technology in general has been covered in many other places at many other times.

    Telecom manufacturers won't sell any kit if they don't provide these capabilities.

    US telecom manufacturers will sell less kit if they follow their governments orders to not do business with countries their Government defines as dodgy.

    Where's the news?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: "unlawful interception" - oh no it isn't

      "US telecom manufacturers will sell less kit if they follow their governments orders to not do business with countries their Government defines as dodgy."

      Oh yes, let's not let things like human rights get in the way of doing business. After all, how could we otherwise make any decent money? Oh, and let's justify this in our minds by saying that different cultures have different ideas about human rights as well: that in some country or other, because the elite claim that "their people" don't expect a decent life, that makes it OK to sell them stuff and we're not committing any crime because all the bad stuff we've enabled isn't a crime in that country. Now, back to making money and that US market listing. Oh, what's this? A lawsuit?

      "Where's the news?"

      The news, if not exactly news to everybody else, is that some people will try and make a buck regardless of the effects those transactions have on other people's lives. And whilst people might be inclined to look the other way, they're less likely to do so when a company is paying out what are effectively the spoils of those transactions, especially when they were under the impression that their investments wouldn't lead to them being implicated in things that are widely considered (that is, by anyone who isn't an exploitative and despicable tyrant) to be crimes.

      1. Chris Elvidge

        let's not let things like human rights get in the way of doing business

        US - China trade anyone?

  8. Chris Miller

    Lawful interception is part of the GSM & 3G specifications

    It's up to the local law enforcement agencies what restrictions are placed on access to it. US laws limit the 'export' of encryption technologies to countries, including Iran, that are deemed unfriendly. As a result, their mobile phone systems may be unencrypted, greatly simplifying eavesdropping.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    But China is OK though

    No embargo against China because it's too large a market to worry about human rights. Iran is smaller so we can play the democracy game. Iran has rigged elections, China no elections at all. So I suppose the Chinese dissidents can now sue Google and all other Western companies that comply with the Chinese governement's censorship rules.

    And how about not selling technology to countries that stone adulterous women then? Where is the line of "human rights vs business"?

  10. Gordon Pryra

    What do you expect from Siemens?

    Almost 100,000 men and women from Auschwitz worked in a Siemens factory inside the camp.

    They are still allowed to function as a company to this day. Money talks and always has done.

    This legal case has a snowballs chance especially when you see the amount of people still doing business with Iran, China and any other questionable regime (with cash).

    1. Chris Miller

      Not just Siemens

      There are few German companies that were operating during the 40s that have clean hands. But it's easy to be sanctimonious from a safe distance of almost 70 years. Let's hope none of us are ever in a position where we have the choice of co-operating with a totalitarian government or being sent to a concentration camp ourselves together with our families.

  11. Gordon Pryra

    @load of crap

    There is that, very good point as well

  12. Anonymous Coward


    Do you sue the gun maker or the person firing the weapon ?

    The grenade manufacturer or the person throwing the grenade ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It depends

      You sue if the company knowingly sold it's weapons to an individual with a history of gun/grenade violations against others.

      You don't sue if the buyer was pretty much responsible up to the point of the sale.

      It's a poor analogy at best because the topic isn't polar.

      If it wasn't profitable to sell to countries that violated human rights, companies would stop. This may be the way to force companies to re-think their greed until people in general grow up and force them to re-align their profit motive.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    "If it wasn't profitable to sell to countries that violated human rights, companies would stop"

    Three semi-random examples:

    South Africa (back then)?

    Israel (now)?

    UK (Blair era)?

    Where are you drawing the line? Who should draw the line? Not saying nothing should be done (hence the mention of apartheid-era S.A.), but I wish it was (to coin a phrase) black and white.

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