The mother of Iranian dissident Nader Afshari says a court official told her that her son was among several people arrested for involvement in an antigovernment protest last week near Tehran.
In a Wednesday phone interview with VOA Persian, Maryam Sabzeparvar said she learned of Afshari’s detention as she spoke to the official at a revolutionary court in the city of Karaj the day before. She said her discovery came after days of trying to find out what happened to her son, a human rights activist who went missing during an antigovernment protest in Karaj August 1.
Before visiting the court, Sabzeparvar said she asked various security bodies if they could share details of Afshari’s fate, but none had done so. At the court, she said the official told her that her son was arrested August 1 on suspicion of involvement in “rioting” and was being interrogated in a “safe house.”
In a statement released Wednesday, rights group Amnesty International said Iranian security forces use self-described “safe houses” as secret detention centers. It said such facilities have no oversight by Iran’s prison regulators.
Sabzeparvar said she heard from the court official that Afshari and other protesters detained in the recent Karaj demonstrations could be released temporarily as early as Saturday.
There was no mention of Afshari’s case in Iranian state media. Karaj is one of at least 12 major Iranian cities where residents have taken to the streets since the start of August to denounce the government for its handling of a worsening economy that has seen the rial weaken to a record low against the dollar.
Detained in February
Iranian authorities had detained Afshari February 1 for involvement in an earlier and larger wave of nationwide antigovernment protests. Amnesty International said Afshari was released on bail March 19 pending prosecution on several charges, including “insulting” Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security.”
Amnesty said it “fears for the well-being of Afshari and other detainees, especially in light of the authorities’ track record in recent months of torturing and otherwise ill-treating detainees, as well as reports of deaths in custody.”
The rights group said Iranian authorities “must ensure that anyone held solely for peacefully taking part in demonstrations, expressing support for them or criticizing the authorities is released immediately and unconditionally.”
Iran’s Islamist rulers have tried to deflect protesters’ anger by accusing the nation’s foreign “enemies” of inciting the demonstrations.
This report was produced in collaboration with VOA’s Persian Service.