Iran detains top activist and two filmmakers over security concerns – Middle East Monitor

Iranian authorities have arrested a prominent reform activist and two filmmakers on charges of undermining national security, local media reported on Friday. Reuters.

Mostafa Tajzadeh, a reformist-turned-militant former deputy interior minister, was arrested for “undermining national security and spreading lies to disturb public opinion”, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported.

President Ebrahim Raisi’s hardline government is facing public discontent, with soaring food prices sparking protests in recent months. US-Iranian indirect talks to resuscitate a 2015 nuclear deal and lift sanctions have stalled.

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

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

It was unclear if Tajzadeh’s arrest was related to the tweet. Khamenei has the final say on all matters of state and is rarely criticized. Comments deemed insulting to him are punishable by imprisonment under Iranian law.

READ: Iranians call on government to end executions in online campaign

Separately, dissident director Mohammad Rasoulof and a colleague, Mostafa Aleahmad, were arrested on Friday, the state news agency said. IRNA reported, accusing them of having links with anti-government groups and of committing security breaches.

The two were part of a group of actors and filmmakers who had signed an appeal calling on security forces to ‘lay down their arms and return to the embrace of the nation’ during street protests following the a deadly building collapse in May, which officials blamed on corruption and lax security.

Both Tajzadeh and Rasoulof have faced charges in the past.

Tajzadeh was imprisoned between 2009 and 2016, primarily for his involvement in the unrest following a disputed election in 2009. Rasoulof faces at least two ongoing prison terms for offenses ranging from filming without a license to “colluding against security national”.

Rasoulof won the 2020 Berlin Film Festival Golden Bear award for ‘There Is No Evil’, about capital punishment and filmed in secret defiance of Iranian government censorship.

Reuters was unable to contact lawyers for the detained men for comment.

Edward N. Arrington