National security is being used as a pretext to persecute activists, journalists and members of the public, said Human Rights Watch, accusing Iranian authorities of using trumped-up national security threats to crack down on protesters across the country,
Journalists Niloufar Hamedi and Elaheh Mohamadi, were detained for covering the protests that began in the wake of the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini at the hands of the morality police for improperly wearing her hijab.
Tara Sepehri Far, a senior researcher at HRW, said: “Iran’s vicious security apparatus is using every tactic in its book, including lethal force against protesters, arresting and slandering human rights defenders and journalists, and sham trials to crush widespread dissent.
“Every new atrocity only reinforces why Iranians are demanding fundamental changes to a corrupt autocracy.”
Hamedi and Mohamadi were accused by the Intelligence Ministry and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of having been trained by US intelligence organizations.
A further 613 people have been detained by authorities following protests — which have now spread to 133 cities — including lawyers, journalists, human rights activists, students and, most shockingly, at least 44 children, according to the Volunteer Committee to Follow-Up on the Situation of Detainees.
On Oct. 24, judicial spokesman Masoud Setayeshi said authorities had charged 315 people in Tehran with “assembly and collusion to act against national security, propaganda against the state, and disrupting public order.”
He added that four people had been charged with “corruption on earth,” including “use of weapons to scare the people, injuring security officers, destruction of public and government property to disrupt national security, and combating the Islamic Republic of Iran.” The charge, if resulting in conviction, can lead to the death penalty.
Amir Raeesian, the lawyer for one of the four — 22-year-old Mohammad Ghobadlou — said his client, who stands accused of killing a security officer and injuring five others in a car accident, had not been permitted to attend his own hearing where the charges were brought against him.
Sepehri Far said: “The international community should be particularly vigilant about the situation of those who are detained, and those at risk of being sentenced to death.
“Demanding the unconditional release and ending the sham trials of all those who have been arrested for peaceful dissent should be a key priority.”
On Oct. 31, Tehran’s judicial authorities updated its figures to say over 1,000 indictments had been issued against detainees.
Hundreds of other similar indictments against protesters and activists have been handed down across the rest of the country.
Protests have been particularly large at many universities — 129 have witnessed demonstrations — which has led to vicious crackdowns, including beatings and the use of teargas, and students being barred from their campuses. So far, 308 of those detained on national security charges are thought to be students.
Numerous public figures have also been arrested, questioned and had their passports confiscated, HRW said, including actors, musicians and footballers.
So far, human rights groups say they are investigating the deaths of at least 284 members of the public during the protests — including 45 children — at the hands of the authorities through the use of firearms and other lethal tactics.
In addition, multiple former detainees have told HRW that they were tortured in prison, including “beating with batons, electric shocks and sexual assault.”