Iranian social media activists held on ‘obscenity’ charges
Twelve social media activists who run reformist group chats on the popular encrypted messaging app Telegram were arrested last month, ahead of the Iranian presidential elections.
“Some of these people have been arrested on national security charges and some... for committing crimes against public decency and publishing obscene content,” judiciary spokesman Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei told the Mizan Online news agency.
According to local Iranian media, the Telegram accounts were shut down after the activists were arrested. At least one was restored within a few days, however nothing was posted on the account since March 17.
Authorities released no information at the time of their arrests and the detainees have not appeared in open court.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani condemned the arrests.
“I ordered the ministers of interior and intelligence to follow it up. Based on the intelligence minister’s report, they haven’t committed a crime,” he told reporters.
However, Mohseni-Ejei defended the arrests, saying it was up to the courts to judge them.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards operate a separate intelligence service that is closely allied to the conservative-dominated judiciary and not answerable to the government.
Both Rouhani and former hardline Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are expected to run for the upcoming May 19 elections. Ahmadinejad’s candidacy came as a surprise to many as he did so against the wishes of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.