LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- The Iranian regime is notorious for cracking down on dissent inside Iran. Now Mahmoud Ahmadenijad and the mullahs are targeting dissidents in other countries -- including those in the United States.
And they are using an international organization to do it.
The Regime Never Forgets
Shahram Homayoun fled Iran for the United States 19 years ago. He was a marked man in his native country, because of his support for democracy and human rights.
Now the regime has finally caught up with Homayoun: not in Tehran, but in Los Angeles.
"They have managed to keep me here, and it seems like there is nothing the U.S. government can do," Homayoun told CBN News in an exclusive interview.
Homayoun owns a satellite television network in L.A. called Channel One TV. He broadcasts pro-democracy programming into Iran on a daily basis.
Now Iranian officials want to silence him -- permanently. A prosecutor in the Iranian city of Shiraz recently issued an arrest warrant against Homayoun on charges of terrorism.
Homayoun explained that he has never called for violence or terrorism of any kind against the Iranian government.
"Never," he said. "Even if the Iranian regime changes, we are encouraging people not to seek revenge. We are anti-terrorism."
Yet Homayoun is now a wanted man, unable to leave the U.S. for fear of arrest.
Marked as a Terrorist
The Iranian regime alerted INTERPOL, the global law enforcement organization, about Homayoun. The organization then issued what's known as a "Red Notice" against him. The Red Notice alerted all 188 INTERPOL member countries that Homayoun was wanted for terrorism.
Homayoun told CBN News that the terrorist charge has made his life extremely difficult.
"I received a notice from my bank in California letting me know about the INTERPOL arrest warrant," he explained. "After a few days, they closed my account. This was after 10 years that I had an account with this bank. I wanted to open an account at another local bank, and they turned me down as well because I was on the INTERPOL list of terrorists. My wife was also turned down when she tried to open an account."
Homayoun said he can't believe the irony of it all. He spends his days on TV speaking out against terrorism committed by the Iranian regime, which funds groups like Hezbollah and Hamas. Now that very regime is accusing him of acts of terror in order to silence him -- and INTERPOL seems to be playing right along.
"You have a terrorist regime in Iran -- they whack their own dissidents inside the country. They've murdered over 200 opposition people outside the country. And now they're using the international police organization to go after those same dissidents," Iran expert Ken Timmerman said.
Timmerman told CBN News that INTERPOL should have thrown out the Iranian warrant against Homayoun immediately.
"INTERPOL should not be taking the word of the Iranian regime, a terrorist organization, to the bank," he said. "They should not be, without any kind of critical examination, accepting arrest warrants from the Iranian regime against people that they can easily verify their activities have nothing to do with terrorism, like Sharham Homayoun."
Organization Partially Funded by U.S. Tax Dollars
INTERPOL helps facilitate cooperation and information sharing among law enforcement agencies across the world. It is funded in part by U.S. taxpayer dollars and is headquartered in Lyon, France.
The group's representatives told CBN News that INTERPOL does not get involved in political matters. They would not comment on the Iranian charges against Homayoun, which appear politically motivated.
"They have no police authority here in the U.S.," said Timothy Williams, the director of INTERPOL's U.S. branch in Washington, D.C. "They can't come here and make arrests. They don't have any authorities here in the U.S. There's not INTERPOL agents running around the world making arrests."
Williams said his office works closely with INTERPOL headquarters in France, but ultimately answers to the U.S. attorney general and the president of the United States.
"If there is a terrorism lead, we may send it to the FBI here who will work that lead," he said. "If its narcotics, we may send it to the DEA or a state or local agency. That's how it works here in the U.S."
Obama's Controversial Executive Order
But critics fear a recent move by the Obama administration could give INTERPOL free reign inside America and lead to the targeting of more U.S. residents like Homayoun.
President Obama issued a controversial executive order late last year that grants INTERPOL the ability to operate on U.S. soil without the usual restraints that apply to domestic law enforcement agencies, like the FBI.
That means the international organization is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. Its staff and offices at its UN liaison office in New York City cannot be searched, and its files there cannot be seized. These privileges and immunities do not apply to the agency's Washington, D.C. office.
"All that did was give them the same authorities and immunities that any international organization that's based here in the U.S. has, nothing more, nothing less," Williams said.
INTERPOL Red Notice Remains
Homayoun believes the Iranian regime is manipulating INTERPOL to target its enemies in America and Europe.
"Isn't this an insult to the justice system, the legal system in the United States?" he asked. "Iran has been empowered here in the United States by INTERPOL."
Homayoun plans to challenge the INTERPOL Red Notice through legal means. He said the FBI has reassured him that he will be safe on U.S. soil.
For now, though, he remains on the organization's international list as a wanted terrorist.
This story was first aired on May 14, 2010.