The arrest of journalist and internet writer Omid Memarian continues a disturbing crackdown on journalists and internet writers in Iran, Human Rights Watch said today. Memarian, a well-known figure in Iran’s nongovernmental organization community, has been detained without charge since his arrest on Sunday, Oct. 10.
The Iranian Students News Agency, citing family members, reported that agents of Iran’s Judiciary working for the Tehran airport prosecutor arrested Memarian in his office around noon on Sunday. The authorities also searched Memarian’s home and confiscated his personal notes and computer.
“Omid Memarian’s arrest is a further sign that Iran’s systematic assault on writers and activists continues unabated,” said Joe Stork, Washington director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division. “The Judiciary in particular remains determined to intimidate critics, isolate them from the public, and make it impossible for their voices to be heard.”
Human Rights Watch called for the Iranian government to release Memarian immediately and unconditionally.
Shortly before his arrest, Memarian had tried to attend a conference on Iranian civil society in New York. He had obtained a U.S. visa, but in Frankfurt, U.S. authorities refused to allow him to board his flight, saying that he was on a “no-fly” list but providing no other information. He was arrested a few days after his return to Tehran.
Memarian has written extensively on youth-related issues in Iran and was a candidate in last year’s election for Tehran’s City Council. He maintains a Web-log dedicated to a range of social, cultural and civil society issues in Iran. Human Rights Watch said that Memarian’s detention comes on the heels of numerous arrests of journalists and internet writers over the past month, a negative trend for online expression.
“These developments do not bode well for the future of freedom of expression in Iran, especially on the internet,” Stork said. “It is disturbing that neither President Khatami nor Supreme Leader Ali Khamane’i has stepped in to stop the Judiciary’s repressive campaign.”