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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Iran arrests prominent activist, two filmmakers on security charges

Iranian authorities have arrested a leading reform activist and two filmmakers on charges of acting against national security, local media reported on Friday.

Mostafa Tajzadeh, a reformist former deputy interior minister turned activist, was detained on charges of “acting against national security and spreading lies to disturb public opinion,” the semi-official Mehr news agency reported.

The hard-line government of President Ebrahim Raisi has faced public discontent, with rising food prices sparking protests in recent months. Indirect US-Iran talks to resurrect a 2015 nuclear deal and lift sanctions are stalled.

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Tajzadeh, an outspoken critic of the government, said Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei must be held accountable if efforts to revive the nuclear deal fail.

“Under the current deplorable economic conditions and public dissatisfaction, failure to revive the nuclear deal has destructive consequences, and its responsibility lies primarily with the leader,” Tajzadeh wrote in a tweet last week.

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It was unclear whether Tajzadeh’s arrest was linked to the tweet.

Khamenei has the final word on all matters of state and is rarely criticized. Comments deemed insulting to him could carry a prison sentence under Iranian law.

Separately, dissident director Mohammad Rasoulof and a colleague, Mostafa Aleahmad, were detained on Friday, state news agency IRNA reported, accusing them of having links to anti-government groups and committing security crimes.

The two were among a group of actors and filmmakers who signed an appeal urging security forces to “lay down their weapons and return to the nation’s embrace” during street protests that followed a deadly building collapse in May, which authorities attributed it to corruption and lax security.

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Tajzadeh and Rasoulof have faced accusations in the past.

Tajzadeh was imprisoned between 2009 and 2016, primarily for his involvement in riots that followed a disputed election in 2009.

Rasoulof faces at least two prison sentences pending for crimes ranging from filming without permission to “collusion against national security”.

Rasoulof won the 2020 Berlin Film Festival Golden Bear award for “There Is No Evil,” about death penalty and filmed in secret defiance of Iranian government censorship.

Reuters was unable to contact the detainees’ lawyers for comment.

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