A Tabriz-based Iranian activist and journalist Peyman Pakmehr has been arrested and taken to Evin prison on national security charges, according to media reports.
Peyman Pakmehr, the editor of the Tabriz News website, was detained by local Intelligence Ministry officials in the northwestern city of Tabriz on 17 January and was reportedly transferred to Tehran’s Evin prison.
According to Iranian opposition website Daneshjoo news, Pakmehr is being held in ward 209 of the notorious prison and has been able to contact his family since his arrest.
Pakmehr was a leading student activist in the nineties and was pursued by authorities following July 1999 student protests in the country.
He has also worked with two newspapers that were eventually shut down by authorities, Nasim-e Sabah and Ahrar-e Tabriz. In July 2003 he was detained hours after giving an interview with Radio Farda about legal protests at Babam fortress near Kaliber.
Pakmehr’s arrest comes amidst a noticeable rise in crackdowns on journalists and activists in recent days. The latest arrest came on Wednesday when security forces took journalist Sahamoddin (Saham) Bourghani to an unknown location after inspecting his place of residence.
In December 2011, a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York based organisation that promotes press freedom and journalist rights, named Iran as the world’s worst jailer of journalists. Eritrea, China, Burma, Vietnam, Syria, and Turkey trailed behind Iran as the world’s worst imprisoners of journalists.
The review suggested that Iran had “maintained a revolving cell door” since its rigged 2009 presidential election, “freeing some detainees on furloughs even as they make new arrests. “Journalists freed on furloughs often post six-figure bonds and endure severe political pressure to keep silent or turn on their colleagues.”
Following the assassination of another Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi Roshani on 11 January, a group of more than 230 opposition activists issued a statement condemning the attack, while at the same time accusing the country's security agencies of being preoccupied with cracking down on dissent rather than ensuring the safety of Iranian citizens.
“Iran’s intelligence forces, which have directed all their efforts at suppressing domestic adversaries and stifling the voice of protesters and the media, have proven incapable of dealing with these [security] threats,” the activists said. “Regime officials, especially the Intelligence Minister, must be held accountable for the slackness shown in protecting the lives of Iranian experts and researchers.”