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Threats Spur Police Aid for Film Makers

Times Staff Writer

The producers and star of a low-budget thriller called “Veiled Threat” say they have been put under limited police and FBI protection after receiving death threats, apparently in connection with the film’s negative portrayal of Iran’s Khomeini regime.

The protection was offered after the film’s executive producer, Iranian-born Taghi Afrakhan, received two telephoned death threats, one of which was spoken in Persian, said producer Bob Graham.

On March 8, the American Film Institute switchboard received a bomb threat before a press screening of the film in connection with the AFI/L.A. International FilmFest, but a police sweep of the theater found nothing.

Los Angeles Police Department spokesman Fred Nixon confirmed that threats had been made to Afrakhan. But he said it is a department policy not to discuss any security measures that the police may have taken.

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Since Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini called for the murder of Salman Rushdie, author of “The Satanic Verses,” earlier this year, Nixon said, the police department has received a number of reports of threats made by Iranian groups.

“But there have been no acts of violence (in Los Angeles) connected with the Rushdie affair,” Nixon said.

Meanwhile, the AFI/FilmFest, which begins April 13, on Monday canceled tentative plans to show the “Veiled Threat” after a festival official learned that the producers had contacted the press about the death threats.

“I said we will show a film, not something where you wave red flags and see if you can attract a bomb or two,” said AFI/FilmFest director Ken Wlaschin. “That’s not responsible.

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“My concern is that (the producers) are creating an ambiance where someone might do something.” He noted that AFI received a bomb threat only after the film’s producers publicized news of its March 8 screening.

Producer Graham said the film makers remained quiet about the film until foreign distributors from France and Italy dropped their plans to release it, and an AFI screening schedule indicated that “Veiled Threat” had been dropped from the festival’s lineup. (Actually, Wlaschin said that though the film was not listed, it was scheduled for April 19.)

“People are starting to knuckle under,” Graham said. “But there’s something about knuckling under at home that really gets to me.”

“Veiled Threat” is based on an incident several years ago in Orange County in which an Iranian journalist was murdered after speaking out against the Khomeini regime. Graham said the film attacks Khomeini, but not Islam.

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The Iranian producers behind “Veiled Threat” wanted to show that Iranians “are not all wild-eyed terrorist bomb throwers.” The $1-million movie is being released by Daystar Productions in Hollywood.

Graham said the anti-terrorist squad of the Los Angeles Police Department has issued “black box” alarm systems to the film makers that enable them to directly call for police assistance. Those under protection are Graham, Afrakhan and his son, the co-producer, Behrooz Afrakhan, and the film’s Iranian-born co-star, Behrouz Vossoughi.

In addition, Graham said, police officials have searched their homes.


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