x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Iran reformists arrested after street protests

More than 100 reformists, including Mohammad Reza Khatami the brother of former president Khatami, were arrested on Saturday night.

More than 100 reformists, including Mohammad Reza Khatami the brother of former president Khatami, were arrested on Saturday night, leading reformist Mohammad Ali Abtahi said today. "They were taken from their homes last night," said the former vice president Abtahi. He said more arrests were expected. Those rounded up were members of Iran's leading reformist party Mosharekat. A number of the leaders of two other reformist groups who backed defeated the presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi have also been arrested, an official from one group said. "At least 10 members of the Islamic Iran Participation Front and the Islamic Revolution Mujahedeen Organisation were arrested yesterday," said Rajab Ali Mazroei, a member of the front.

Several of those arrested held senior government positions under the two-time former reformist president Mohammad Khatami, who served from 1997 to 2005. Among them were Behzad Nabavi, a former deputy parliament speaker, Mohsen Mirdamadi who headed the IIPF and parliament's foreign policy commission under Khatami, and Khatami's government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh. The official IRNA news agency reported that two of those arrested were involved in orchestrating mass protests across Tehran on Saturday that were unleashed after the results of the disputed election were known. The demonstrations over incumbent hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election in a vote his opponents say was rigged led to rioting on a scale unseen in Iran for nearly a decade. In the wake of the unrest authorities shut down the office of Arab news channel Al-Arabiya in Tehran for a week, the channel said. The Dubai-based news channel said that its correspondent who has been in Tehran for the past four months had been "informed verbally" of the decision. "We are not allowed to do any coverage. No reason was given, and there was no earlier warning," the executive editor Nabil al-Khateeb told AFP. "I believe it is due to the current state of unrest," he said. The European Union expressed "concerned about alleged irregularities during the election process and post-election violence". The Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Iranians to respect Mr Ahmadinejad's victory in a presidential election that his closest challenger described as a "dangerous charade". The Afghan president Hamid Karzai sent his congratulations to his Iranian counterpart, a statement from his office said.

While world powers and key backers of the Kabul administration such as the UK and the US have reacted cautiously, a statement quoting Mr Karzai said: "The selection of Dr Ahmadinejad with a definitive majority of the Iranian people's vote is a suitable selection for the continuous progress and welfare of the Iranian nation." Mr Karzai "congratulated this victory to the people of Iran as well". Afghanistan is keen to maintain good relations with its immediate neighbour. Iran has close ethnic and religious ties with Afghanistan but the Islamic republic has been accused by Afghan and international military commanders of secretly supporting a rising Taliban insurgency against foreign forces in the country. * With agencies