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US accuses China’s Huawei of helping Iran track protesters

Huawei Technologies (Kalligraf/WikiCommons)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The U.S. Justice Department has accused Huawei Technologies of helping Iran track protesters in its latest indictment against the Chinese tech giant as Washington steps up pressure on the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker.

In a new indictment unsealed on February 13, Huawei was also charged with conspiring to steal trade secrets from six U.S. technology companies and to violate a racketeering law typically used in the fight against organized crime.

The indictment supersedes one unsealed last year in federal court in Brooklyn, New York.

According to prosecutors, Huawei provided surveillance equipment to Iran that enabled the monitoring of protesters during anti-government protests in Tehran last year.

“Huawei assisted the government of Iran by installing surveillance equipment, including surveillance equipment to monitor, identify, and detain protesters during the anti-government demonstrations of 2009 in Tehran,” the prosecutors said in the indictment.

The indictment also alleges Huawei employed at least one citizen in Iran, which is a violation of U.S. law.

Following a move by Iranian authorities to impose gasoline rationing and raise prices in November 2019, anti-government protests erupted in more than 100 cities and turned violent before security forces put them down amid an Internet blackout.

The company already faces charges of lying to banks about deals that violated economic sanctions against Iran.

The indictment also alleged that the company sought to hide business it was doing in North Korea despite economic sanctions against Pyongyang.

The company called all the allegations “without merit” in a statement released late on February 13.

It said the new indictment was “part of the Justice Department’s attempt to irrevocably damage Huawei’s reputation and its business for reasons related to competition rather than law enforcement.”

A spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry urged the United States to “immediately cease its unreasonable oppression of Chinese enterprises.”

The U.S. administration has raised national-security concerns about Huawei and has pressed Western allies to block the company from wireless, high-speed networks.

U.S. national-security adviser Robert O’Brien this week asserted that Huawei can secretly tap into communications through the networking equipment it sells globally. The company disputes that, saying it “has never and will never covertly access telecom networks, nor do we have the capability to do so.”