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August 21, 2020updated 30 Sep 2022 9:31am

Granada producers hit back over censorship claims made in documentary about overthrow of Iranian PM Coup 53

By Paul Martin

The producers of the major Granada Television series End of Empire, first shown on Channel 4 in 1985, have adamantly rejected claims that they were pressured into withdrawing an interview they had filmed with an MI6 agent.

Taghi Amirani made the claims in his documentary feature film Coup 53, digitally premiered this week and featuring actor Ralph Feines , about the British role in a coup d’etat that overthrew the prime minister of Iran in 1953.  He insists that the End of Empire producers had been obliged, though an MI6 intervention, to remove MI6 spy Norman Darbyshire from the final cut of their film about Iran.

However,  End of Empire director Mark Anderson and researcher Alison Rooper deny they ever filmed an interview with Darbyshire. They say there was only an audio-tape made of an off-the-record briefing, and they had later tried but failed to get Darbyshire to go on camera.

Rooper told the Press Gazette: “It’s admirable that Taghi has made a new version of the story with more time and money and documents than we had. But he needs to get his facts right.”


For his part, Anderson is angry that Coup 53 implies he and Rooper were failing to tell the truth. “We feel we may have been traduced,” said Anderson.

In the film trailer Amirani claims his revelations in the film will turn history “inside out”.

He also made the same allegations of a “mysterious” missing film in a wide range of pre-publicity for his film

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But after reviewing the film on 2 August  the Observer had to backtrack.  It had seemed to accept Amirani’s claims of censorship as fact, but later published a “clarification”, added to the story,and a letter from the End of Empire: Iran team.

Amirani found a witness who says the End of Empire producers told him an MI6 agent had asked or demanded that he be cut out.

Interviewed by the Press Gazette, the grandson of the deposed Iranian premier admitted his memory of the supposed MI6 intervention 35 years ago was flawed. “I may not have been there.  It was a long time ago,” Heda Matin Daftari, 85, who had been an adviser on the End of Empire film, said by Whatsapp from his Paris home.

The End of Empire cameraman Humphry Trevelyan, shown in Coup53, appears to remember filming a British spy among several other people at London’s Savoy Hotel, but does not clearly state he was aware of the names of any of the interviewees. The producers say he had actually filmed a different British diplomat.

Ironically, Coup53 uses extensive chunks of interviews originally conducted by End of Empire and purchased from ITV’s Archives.

Darbyshire himself died in 1993.

Amirani told the Press Gazette that the whereabouts of the supposed Darbyshire film remained a “mystery”. He declined to elaborate.
The last caption of Coup53 states: “The location or existence of the original film of the Darbyshire interview is still unknown at this time.”
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