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A forensics investigator photographs the victim's car at the scene where GEM TV founder Saeed Karimian was shot dead in Istanbul, Turkey April 29, 2017 in this still image taken from video. Video taken April 29, 2017. DHA/Handout via Reuters TV

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ISTANBUL (Reuters) - The head of an Iranian satellite television network who last year was sentenced in absentia to six years in prison by a Tehran court was shot dead in Istanbul together with a business partner, Turkey's Dogan news agency said on Sunday.

GEM TV founder Saeed Karimian and an associate were driving in Istanbul's Maslak neighbourhood after 8 p.m. (1700 GMT) on Saturday when their car was blocked by a jeep and shots were fired, Dogan said.

Karimian was found dead by emergency services arriving at the scene, Dogan said. His associate was taken to hospital but could not be revived.

Dogan described both victims as being of Iranian origin. The Hurriyet Daily News identified Karimian as a British national and his associate as a Kuwaiti.

Two masked shooters got out of the jeep before opening fire, Hurriyet said.

The jeep was later found abandoned and burned. Istanbul police declined to comment on the shooting when contacted by Reuters.

Dogan quoted the mayor of Istanbul's Sariyer district as saying initial police findings suggested the shooting may have prompted by a financial disagreement involving Karimian.

GEM TV is known for entertainment satellite channels that dub foreign films and Western television programmes into Farsi for Iranians. It also produces movies and TV series.

But in Iran, where the government tries to instil Islamic values by strictly regulating popular culture, the satellite broadcaster's programming has angered authorities, who view it as part of a cultural "soft war" waged by the West.

Last year a Revolutionary Court in Tehran tried Karimian in absentia and sentenced him to six years in jail on charges of "acting against national security" and "propaganda against the state".

(Reporting by Ece Toksabay; Additional reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Ros Russell)

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