IRAN

Police's composite drawing of acid attacker is actually a random photo from the Web

The image of this man was shared widely on Wednesday by many Iranian news sites, including Mehr News, an official state press agency. Described as a computer-generated composite drawing of a man accused of attacking four women with acid in Isfahan last week, it was actually a random photo from the Web.

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The image of this man was shared widely on Wednesday by many Iranian news sites, including Mehr News, an official state press agency. Described as a computer-generated composite drawing of a man accused of attacking four women with acid in Isfahan last week, it was actually a random photo from the Web.

The photo was described as a computer-generated composite drawing of a man who attacked multiple women with acid in this article published by press agency Mehr News

Several hours earlier, Mehr News had published a different article featuring an interview with the police commander in Isfahan. Mehr News quoted the commander as saying that police had a composite drawing of the attacker created from the descriptions given by victims. He described it as a “possible lead” in the case and said his team was “conducting investigations.” For now, we are not able to confirm if the photo shared by Mehr News was given to them by the police.

As soon as the “composite drawing” was published on Mehr’s site, Internet users started questioning it. Many said that it looked more like a photo than a computer-generated drawing. Others even suggested a conspiracy theory, saying that the conservative Iranian government was trying to implicate someone wearing “western dress” to distract the public from mounting suspicions that the attacks was perpetrated by conservative Islamists.

Mystery solved: photo shows an Iranian who works at Standard & Poor’s in London

After a few hours, industrious internet users dug up the original photo, which turned out to be of Iranian businessman Ali Jalali, a member of an administrative committee at Standard & Poor’s in London. That same photo of him had already been published in colour last week alongside an interview about Jalali's business career on Jam-e-jam, the website of a conservative Iranian public TV channel.

This article, including the original photo of Ali Jalali, was published last week on the Iranian website Jam-e-jam.

On Wednesday afternoon, Mehr News deleted the article identifying Jalali’s photo as that of the Isfahan acid attacker. Then, it re-published  the full interview with Jalali as it had originally appeared on Jam-e-jam alongside the photo. This was probably an attempt to make it look as if someone had just accidentally put Jalali’s photo on the wrong article.

The story got even stranger at this point. In the new article, Jalali’s photo appeared in a larger format, making it possible to see details showing that it was scanned from a fax sent to Mehr News by a tech company at 11:07 p.m. on Tuesday.

A few hours later, the faxed photo was also removed from the site and replaced with Jam-e-jam’s original picture of Jalali, but not before FRANCE 24 took a screenshot.

For several hours, Mehr News displayed this image of the ‘composite drawing,’ which included details showing it had been sent by fax.

Mehr News has since published a statement, apologising for using the “wrong photo”… without specifying whether they were apologising for using Jalali’s photo as the image of the Isfahan attacker or for publishing a photo with the fax details attached.

FRANCE 24 has contacted Ali Jalali and will publish any response he may have to this incident.