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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Iran arrests charity workers for 'highlighting country's problems', report claims

Iran's supreme leader praised Imam Ali's Society in 2016 for feeding the poor [Getty]

Date of publication: 23 June, 2020

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An Iranian newspaper has claimed the arrest of three members of a student charity is due to the group 'portraying the justice and human rights situation in Iran as critical'
An Iranian official on Tuesday confirmed the arrest of three members of a student charity but denied the organisation's offices had been shut, ILNA news agency reported.

"The recent arrest of three members of Imam Ali's (Popular Students Relief) Society was done based on a court order," Zahra Abedini, a deputy interior minister, was quoted as saying.

"Based on investigations, none of their offices have been sealed," she added.

The charity, established in 2000 and recognised by the United Nations in 2010, has reportedly built a network of 12,000 volunteers helping impoverished children and providing relief during natural disasters.

The organisation was praised in July 2016 by Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei over an initiative it had to feed the poor during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan.

Abedini gave no details or the reason for the arrests and authorities have yet to announce any charges.

The charity's Twitter account said its founder, Sharmin Meymandinejad, had been arrested on Sunday evening along with two other members named as Morteza Keymanesh and Katayoun Afrazeh.

In a statement on Monday, it said Meymandinejad had been accused of "insulting the leader of the revolution and the founder of the Islamic republic" and the two others were charged with "acting against national security".

It denied the allegations and added that the organisation "has had no political activities" and "has previously obtained all the legal licences for its activities".

But the ultra-conservative Kayhan newspaper on Tuesday blasted the charity's founder in a article titled "Criminal Samaritans".

The daily said it had followed Meymaninejad's activities for at least a decade.

"We would not be surprised if someday it is announced that the society's heads were involved in human organ trafficking or smuggled weapons to terrorist groups," it said.

Kayhan accused Meymandinejad of blaspheming against Islam and insulting the revolution's founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in an account attributed to an unnamed individual.

It also accused the charity's founder of "portraying the justice and human rights situation in Iran as critical" by highlighting the Islamic republic's problems and working with foreign media and international bodies.

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