Iran: hundreds of dissidents arrested, disappeared

International rights organizations say hundreds of activists and opposition figures have been detained in Iran in response to protests over the country’s disputed elections. Hadi Ghaemi, director of the New York-based International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, said he had spoken with family members and colleagues of people who have been arrested or disappeared—saying there have been at least 200 such cases across the country.

Ghaemi said one of the latest to be arrested was Ebrahim Yazdi, who was foreign minister after the 1979 revolution and is now leader of the banned but tolerated Freedom Movement of Iran (Nezhat Azadi). Ghaemi said Yazdi was arrested in the intensive care unit of Tehran’s Pars Hospital.

Yazdi’s son, Mehdi Noorbaksh, who lives in Harrisburg, Penn., confirmed to the Associated Press that his 74-year-old father was detained while undergoing treatment at the hospital June 17 and taken to Evin Prison, just outside the capital.

Iranian analyst Saeed Leilaz was arrested June 17 by plainclothes security officers at his home, according to his wife, Sepehrnaz Panahi. Ghaemi also said that Mohammad-Reza Jalaipour, another noted Iranian analyst, was detained.

The BBC’s Farsi-language news site said Jalaipour is a student at Oxford and was arrested at the airport upon trying to leave Iran with his wife, Fatemeh Shams. A plainclothes officer did not give a reason for the arrest, Shams told the BBC.

Amnesty International said that 17 political activists were detained and taken to “unspecified locations” June 15 after they staged a peaceful protest in a square in Tabriz. Amnesty said Ghaffari Farzadi, a leading member of the Iran Freedom Movement and a lecturer at Tabriz University, was also arrested, according to witnesses they spoke to at the university.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said other people who have disappeared or been arrested include:

* Prominent reformer Saeed Hajjarian, an advisor to former president Mohammad Khatami, paralyzed in an assassination attempt in 2000.

* Mohammad Tavasoli, director of the political office of the Freedom Movement of Iran, arrested June 16.

* Human rights lawyer Abdolfattah Soltani, arrested in his office by security forces posing as clients.

* Human rights activist Shiva Nazarahari.

* Journalist Mahsa Amrabadi.

* Former Khatami spokesperson Abdolah Ramezanzadeh.

* Several members of the reformist Islamic Participation Front and the central council of the university alumni group ADVAR, as well as the Freedom Movement.

The AP said it “could not independently confirm the rights groups’ reports due to government restrictions on reporting inside the country.” The Iranian government says it has arrested a relatively small number of people responsible for violence and other crimes. (AP, June 17)

Mousavi calls day of mourning
More mass protests are expected in Tehran after presidential challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi urged followers to observe a day of mourning. Mousavi called on supporters to wear black and stage peaceful protests or gather in mosques in memory of eight people killed after a Tehran rally June 15. The eight were apparently shot by the Basij militia.

The gatherings are expected to draw even larger numbers than the June 17 rally, which saw tens of thousands of people march in silence through the center of Tehran. Estimates put the number of marchers at between 70,000 and 500,000. Mousavi’s call for further action is in open defiance of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who will deliver the sermon at Friday prayers and is expected to appeal for calm. (BBC News, June 18)

Beyond Tehran…
Amnesty International said a crackdown on about 3,000 protesters in the north-western city of Oroumiye June 16 led to the deaths of two people and the detention of hundreds. In the southern city of Shiraz, tear gas was used in a university library where security forces beat students and detained about 100. And in the northern town of Babol, paramilitaries and plainclothes officials surrounded Babol University and targeted students in dormitories, witnesses told Amnesty. (AP, June 17)

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