Iranian security forces have reportedly arrested one of the country’s most prominent civil society activists and a journalist who played a key role in denouncing the case of Mahsa Amini, whose death sparked a week of deadly nationwide protests.
Amini was pronounced dead on September 16, three days after he was arrested by Tehran’s vice squad.
Her family and protesters say she died from injuries sustained in a beating by police. Iranian authorities say a primary coroner’s examination showed she died of heart failure or a stroke.
Activists say at least 36 civilians have been killed in a police crackdown since people took to the streets last week.
Majid Tavakoli, an activist who has been repeatedly detained in Iran in recent years, including after the controversial 2009 elections, has been arrested overnight in his home, his brother Mohsen wrote on Twitter.
Another prominent activist who still lives in Iran, Hossein Ronaghi, gave an interview to Iran International when security agents arrived at his home, the London-based broadcaster said.
A video published by the channel shows Ronaghi looking anxious but insisting the interview go on.
Iran International said the activist, who campaigns for freedom of expression and contributes to the Washington Post, managed to escape arrest by slipping out of the parking lot of his building and later broadcasting a video message from an undisclosed location.
Meanwhile, Nilufar Hamedi, a journalist from Tehran who went to the hospital where Amini was in a coma and helped expose the case to the world, has been arrested, the daily Shargh, for which she works, wrote on Telegram.
Photojournalist Yalda Moaiery was also arrested while covering protests in Tehran this week, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.
“Iranian authorities must immediately release all journalists arrested for reporting on Mahsa Amini’s death and the protests that followed,” said Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator.
Activists had accused the Iranian authorities of cracking down even before the protests started, arresting two of the country’s most acclaimed filmmakers, Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof.
Iran’s President, Ebrahim Raisi, told a news conference on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on Thursday that Amini’s death “needs to be “firmly investigated” while criticizing what he believes to be Western “double standards” were for human rights.
“Our main concern is protecting the rights of every citizen,” Raisi said. “If her death was due to negligence, it will certainly be investigated and I promise to follow up on the matter whether the international forums take a position or not.”
Raisi, a hardliner in charge of the judiciary, said Iran would not tolerate “acts of chaos”, citing the six nights of protests. Raisi tried to turn the tables in the country he was visiting by asking about police shootings in the US. “Have all these deaths been investigated?” he said.
Iran’s judiciary has ordered courts to crack down on protesters, alleging that the protesters were led by foreign agents and harassed by anti-Iranian social media — a well-known accusation made by the regime when dissent erupts.
The extent of the unrest in Iran, the worst in years, remains unclear, although it has undoubtedly increased in the days since Amini’s death. Security and paramilitary forces have been deployed to quell protests in more than 12 cities.
On Thursday, protesters set fire to police stations and vehicles in several cities, and Iran shut down the internet in parts of Tehran and Kurdistan province and blocked access to platforms such as Instagram and WhatsApp. On Friday, the Iranian military said it would “confront the enemies” to ensure security – the strongest warning yet to protesters.
Amini was detained for allegedly wearing a hijab in an “inappropriate” manner. As part of the protest, Iranian women have taken to the streets and the internet to burn their headscarves and cut their hair.
Agence France-Presse contributed to this report