The U.S. State Department and human rights groups have expressed shock and outrage at Iran’s arrest of the husband of Nasrin Sotoudeh, a detained rights lawyer whose release he campaigned for.
Rights groups said security agents detained Reza Khandan at his home early Tuesday and took him to Tehran’s Evin prison. The groups quoted Khandan’s lawyer, Mohammad Moghimi, as saying Iranian authorities charged Khandan with national security offenses and promoting nonobservance of the compulsory wearing of veils or hijabs by women in public.
A Tuesday tweet by the State Department’s Farsi Twitter feed said the Trump administration is “deeply shocked and alarmed” by Khandan’s arrest. It said Washington also is monitoring reports of the arrest in recent days of three Iranian lawyers, Farrokh Forouzan, Payam Dorafshan and Hoda Amid. The tweet ended with a question: “We have to ask the Iranian government, what are you really afraid of?”
In a Monday Facebook post, Khandan said an intelligence agent called him that day and asked him to report for questioning Tuesday. He said he objected to being summoned without a written warrant from the judiciary but was told in response to his objection that he would be arrested.
Campaigned for wife's release
Khandan had publicly campaigned for the release of his wife, Nasrin Sotoudeh, since her June imprisonment to serve a five-year sentence for a national security-related conviction handed down in absentia. In the months before her arrest, Sotoudeh had defended Iranian women arrested for removing their compulsory hijabs or headscarves during public protests against the Iranian government. She began a hunger strike Aug. 26 to protest her detention and government harassment of her family and friends.
Before his arrest, Khandan also criticized the Iranian government’s treatment of human rights defenders such as his wife and its prosecution of women who campaigned against forced veiling.
In an interview for the Tuesday edition of VOA Persian’s NewsHour program, Reporters Without Borders activist Reza Moini said it appeared that Khandan was arrested for publicizing information about his wife, who has defended journalists and citizen-journalists in recent years.
“We assume that, in regards to political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, the Iranian government always fears the spread of information about them, and this fear has led the government to take actions to instill dread and fear in the families of these prisoners and force them into silence,” said Moini, who is based in France.
Iranian state media had no immediate comment on Khandan’s detention.
Rights groups call out 'callous act'
Rights advocate Philip Luther of Britain-based group Amnesty International issued a statement denouncing the arrest of Sotoudeh’s husband as a “callous” act.
“The Iranian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release both Nasrin Sotoudeh and Reza Khandan,” Luther said. “They must drop all charges against them and stop their harassment of this family once and for all.”
The U.S.-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) said multiple elements of the Iranian establishment were to blame for the situation.
“The intelligence ministry, which reports directly to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and was responsible for Khandan’s arrest, has become one of Iran’s major human rights violators while Rouhani stands by silent,” CHRI executive director Hadi Ghaemi said in a separate online statement.
This article originated in VOA’s Persian Service.