According to a Radio Farda report, which cited an anonymous source close to the journalist’s family, authorities attempted to pressure Aghaei during questioning to reveal information about other Iranian journalists.
On September 31, judiciary spokesman Mohsen Ejei said during his weekly news conference that the arrests of Aghaei and Yaghma Fashkhami, a reporter for Didban Iran who was detained the same month but in a separate case, were matters of national security, and that formal charges had not been filed, Entekhab News reported.
As of late 2017, Tehran’s public prosecutor had repeatedly extended Aghaei’s 30-day detention period, according to reports that cited the journalist’s family. In Iran, those facing national security-related accusations can be detained indefinitely until authorities file a charge. Authorities denied two requests from the journalist that he be released pending the result of the investigation.
As well as working as a political columnist, Aghaei was culture and media editor at Etemaad News, which is one of Iran’s most prominent reformist newspapers.
Aghaei is detained in Evin prison, his family told the New York-based organization the Center for Human Rights in Iran. The family said that prison officials barred them from seeing Aghaei when they tried to visit in August.
In an interview with the opposition news site Kaleme, the journalist’s family said that Aghaei is being held in solitary confinement while he is questioned. Officials barred the journalist from having any contact with his family for the first month that he was detained, but Aghaei is now allowed to make calls once a month, according to the report.
As of late 2017, no charges had been disclosed in his case.
Aghaei has been arrested three other times as a result of his reporting, according to the press freedom watchdog project, Journalism is not a Crime. Authorities in 2009 arrested the journalist twice–for his coverage of protests over the disputed 2009 presidential election, and for covering a separate protest. In 2013, Aghaei was arrested alongside 17 other journalists during a sweeping crackdown on the press.