DUBAI, Nov 10 (Reuters) – Iranian security forces have arrested an employee of an opposition television broadcaster, Iran International, as the individual was trying to flee the country, its semi-official Fars news agency said on Thursday.
On Tuesday, Iran‘s intelligence minister, Esmail Khatib, called the London-based channel a “terrorist” organisation.
The arrest comes amidst one of the boldest challenges to Iran‘s clerical rulers since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, with nationwide protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini in the custody of morality police for not wearing “appropriate attire”.
“Recently, the agent carried out numerous activities and actions in slandering the Islamic Republic, inviting youth to riot and creating terror among the people,” Fars said with respect to the arrest.
Iranian media identified the arrested individual as Elham Afkari, who they said had been in contact with the TV channel.
There is no news of Liana, Elham Afakari’s three y.o daughter who was with her at the time of arrest in Shiraz. We are afraid the Islamic Republic might have taken Liana into custody too!#MahsaAmini pic.twitter.com/5HCQMUAKNd
— 1500tasvir_en (@1500tasvir_en) November 10, 2022
The semi-official Student News Network broadcaster said she was the sister of Navid Afkari, a 27-year-old Greco-Roman wrestler executed in September 2020 after being convicted of stabbing a security guard to death during anti-government protests in 2018.
Afkari’s family and activists have said Navid was tortured into making a false confession, accusations that were denied by the hardline Iranian judiciary.
Saeed Afkari confirmed his sister’s arrest on Twitter on Thursday, adding that the whereabouts of Elham’s three-year-old daughter were unknown.
Since the execution of Navid Afkari, the Afkaris have faced several court cases over involvement in the 2018 protests. Habib Afkari was freed in March 2022 after months of isolation in prison, while Vahid Afkari remains in solitary confinement.
Iran International officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
Iran has accused arch regional rival Saudi Arabia of funding the opposition news outlet, which has covered the protest movement extensively since it started. Saudi Arabia has not commented on Iran‘s allegations.
On Wednesday, Khatib warned Saudi Arabia that there was no guarantee Tehran would continue to maintain “strategic patience” towards Riyadh.
(Reporting by Dubai Newsroom; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Tomasz Janowski and Mark Heinrich)