Iranian authorities have arrested a pro-reform activist, saying he conspired to act against state security, semi-official media in Iran reported on Saturday.
The arrest is the latest in a wave of detentions against the backdrop of escalating tensions with the West and Tehran’s rapid progress on its nuclear work, while talks to revive the landmark 2015 atomic deal remain stalled.
The semi-official Fars news agency said activist Mostafa Tajzadeh was arrested on Friday afternoon and charged with “assembling (to protest) and conspiring to act against the security of the country.”
Tajzadeh is a well-known activist who has criticized the country’s top leader and high-ranking officials. He spent years in prison following the disputed 2009 re-election of Iran’s hardline president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the turmoil that followed.
Meanwhile, Tehran’s chief prosecutor, Ali Salehi, was quoted by the Mizan judiciary news agency on Saturday as backing the latest arrests and saying the detainees’ activities “created divisions” that led to “media incitement and the society”.
On Friday, the state news agency IRNA reported the arrest of two filmmakers over an appeal they posted on social media, accusing them of links to opposition groups based outside the country and plotting to undermine state security.
Award-winning filmmaker Mohamad Rasoulof and his colleague Mostafa Al-Ahmad were arrested for posting a statement on social media urging members of the Iranian security forces to lay down their arms. At least 70 Iranian filmmakers and film industry workers signed the appeal.
The hashtag #put_your_gun_down is a reference to the violent crackdown during riots that followed a building collapse in the southwestern city of Abadan that killed at least 41 people earlier this year. The May 23 collapse brought to light painful memories of past national disasters and sparked protests in Abadan during which police beat protesters and fired tear gas.
In recent months, there have been protests in Iran over price increases and the reduction of subsidies by the government. Teachers also met for weeks, demanding better pay and working conditions.
Also fresh are memories of Iran’s fuel price hike in November 2019, when widespread protests, the most violent since the creation of the Islamic Republic in 1979, rocked the country.
Iran has also detained several Europeans in recent months, including two French nationals and a Swedish tourist, as it seeks to gain leverage in nuclear negotiations.
Dual nationals and people with Western ties have also been arrested, often on widely criticized espionage charges, to be used as bargaining chips in negotiations. Tehran denies using the detainees to further its political goals.
Talks to revive Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers have stalled for months. A recent effort to break the deadlock between US and Iranian negotiators ended with no progress in Qatar.