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Founder, Two Members Of Prominent Anti-Poverty NGO Detained In Iran


Source: RFE/RL

A prominent Iranian NGO that fights poverty says its founder and two other members have been detained. Imam Ali's Popular Students Relief Society said on June 21 that security forces had arrested the group's founder, Sharmin Meymandinejad, at his home. It added that the charity's media-relations director, Morteza Keymanesh, and senior inspector, Katayoun Afrazeh, were arrested, too.

Sharmin Meymandinejad (file photo)

The reason for the arrests and charges against them are not clear and the authorities have not publicly confirmed their arrests.

The hard-line Tasnim news agency, affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), accused Meymandinejad, whom it identified only by his initials, of contacts with "anti-Iran centers outside the country" under the cover of a charity group.

The IRGC has in recent months arrested dual nationals, environmentalists, and others on charges of espionage that have been widely dismissed by critics and civil rights activists as baseless.

Hard-liners have in recent years criticized the charity and accused it of misusing the organization for political purposes and hurting the Islamic republic by highlighting problems, as well as working with foreign countries and international bodies.

The charity organizes university students and other volunteers to help the poor and others in times of natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods.

In May, judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi warned about alleged plans by Iran's "enemies" to fund charities for "hostile" purposes.

Iran's President Hassan Rohani recently said charities and nongovernmental groups should not allow "dishonest individuals" to assume positions in them.

The charity said last year that several of its members had been threatened over the phone and told to cut their ties with the NGO.

The group had also said that some of its members had come under cyberattack.

With reporting by AP

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