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Report: Kurdish Rights Spokesman Arrested in Iran

Iranian police have arrested the spokesman of a Kurdish rights organization for allegedly defending Iranians who criticized the recent executions of Kurdish opposition activists.

A journalist in Iran, who asked not to be identified by name, told VOA's Kurdish service that police detained Ijlal Ghawami (Quwami) on Friday in Iran's Kurdistan region. Ghawami is a spokesman for the Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan (HROK).

Earlier this month, Iran announced it had executed five opposition activists, four of whom were Kurds. Iran's state-run IRNA news agency said the four Kurdish activists belonged to the Kurdish rebel group, PJAK, which Tehran, as well as the United States, consider a terrorist organization. IRNA said a fifth person arrested was a member of a monarchist group that allegedly carried out a deadly bombing in 2008.

The executions sparked protests from human rights organizations. Amnesty International said three of the activists were tortured and two were forced to confess under duress.

Iranian opposition groups said residents of Iran's Kurdistan province held a general strike Thursday to protest the executions.

In 2009, Human Rights Watch awarded a grant to Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan founder Mohammad Sadegh Kaboudvand. The group said he is serving a 10-year prison sentence in Iran for his writings critical of Iranian government policies.

The PJAK also is known as the Free Life Party of Kurdistan. Tehran accuses the group of using northern Iraq as a base to launch cross-border attacks into northwestern Iran, where Iranian forces often battle Kurdish separatists.

The U.S. government declared the PJAK a terrorist group last year, saying it is controlled by the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, a group fighting for Kurdish autonomy in southeastern Turkey.