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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivers a speech during the ceremony of the National Army Day parade in Tehran, Iran April 18, 2019. Iran arrested editor Mohammad Reza Nassab Abdollahi on April 21. (Tasnim News Agency via Reuters)

Iran arrests editor Abdollahi, fails to disclose charge or his location

May 3, 2019 11:31 AM ET

Washington, D.C., May 3, 2019 -- The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on Iranian authorities to release Mohammad Reza Nassab Abdollahi, editor-in-chief of Iranian news websites Anar Press and Aban Press.

The intelligence unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps arrested Abdollahi on the afternoon of April 21 in his hometown of Anar in Kerman province, according to Iranwire and an April 22 post by his wife Kamand Omidparvar on her personal Instagram account. After his arrest, authorities transferred him to an undisclosed location, according to the same post by Omidparvar.

The Anar Press and Aban Press websites were blocked immediately after his arrest, according to a separate Instagram post by Omidparvar on April 25 and attempts by CPJ to access the sites. Anar Press covered local daily news from Anar, his hometown, and Aban Press covered Iranian domestic political news.

"Iranian authorities must immediately release editor Mohammad Reza Nassab Abdollahi and stop arbitrarily detaining journalists," said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Coordinator Sherif Mansour. "This arrest is typical of Iran's contempt for press freedom and other human rights."

CPJ was unable to determine the reason for Abdollahi's arrest. However, in May 2018, a court had sentenced Abdollahi to six months in prison on the charge of "spreading false information" on the Anar Press website, according to Iranwire. According to a source familiar with the case who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, one of the articles that led to the arrest of Abdollahi and his wife last year was critical of hardliners in the country. That case is still open against Omidparvar, who owns the license of the websites, according to the same source.

After Abdollahi was arrested, the security forces raided his home in the central city of Shiraz in Fars province while his family was not home; they also raided Abdollahi's mother's home and confiscated belongings he had there, including his laptop, phone, hard drive, and notes, Omidparvar shared in the same post on April 22.

Since his arrest, Abdollahi has not been in touch with his wife and children but was permitted to make a two-minute phone call to his mother, according to the source who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity.

According to the same source, at the time of the arrest the security forces did not have an arrest warrant for Abdollahi. Also, his family's efforts to hire a personal attorney have been blocked by judiciary officials.

Abdollahi, a veteran Shiraz-based freelance reporter for publications such as Ham Mihan, Etemad-e Melli, Etemad, and Kargozaran, has been arrested several times in the past, according to CPJ research. On May 13, 2010, Abdollahi was sentenced to eight months in prison on charges of "propagation against the regime," CPJ reported at the time.

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