Sat, 04 Feb 2023

Iran Releases Dissident, Soccer Star on Bail

Voice of America
27 Nov 2022, 16:06 GMT+10

Prominent Iranian dissident Hossein Ronaghi and former national soccer team player Voria Ghafouri have been released on bail, according to Iran state media Saturday.

The two are among the dozens of prominent rights activists, journalists and lawyers who have been arrested amid Iran's crackdown on protests that were ignited by the death of Mahsa Amini.

Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian of Kurdish origin, died Sept. 16 after being detained by the country's so-called morality police for not following the nation's strict dress code.

'Voria Ghafouri and Hossein Ronaghi were released on bail,' Iran's Fars news agency said Saturday on its social media accounts.

Ghafouri, who is Kurdish, was arrested Thursday. He is one of at least four current and veteran Iranian soccer players - the other three are Hossein Mahini, Parviz Broumand, and Hamidreza Ali Asgari - taken into custody on charges of participating in or supporting the popular protests.

Ronaghi, 37 and a contributor to The Wall Street Journal, was arrested shortly after the protests started in mid-September and taken to Evin prison. Concern had been growing about his health after he began a hunger strike that lasted two months.

'Hossein was released tonight on bail to undergo treatment,' Hossein Ronaghi's brother Hassan wrote on Twitter.

Their father, Ahmad, posted a picture of Hossein in hospital, saying he had been released after a hunger strike that lasted 64 days.

Ghafouri, a former member of Iran's national soccer team, is originally from the Kurdish-populated city of Sanandaj in western Iran. Since the beginning of the current protest movement, he has severely criticized the behavior of the government in his user accounts on social networks.

At the World Cup on Monday, the Iranian team didn't sing their country's anthem, something widely viewed as a demonstration of support for the protests that erupted in Iran after Amin's death in police custody in September.

On Friday, the team halfheartedly sang along, as boos and jeers met Iran's anthem as the players appeared to merely mouth the lyrics.

According to the United Nations, about 14,000 people have been arrested in the crackdown on the protests that erupted after Amini's death.

Among those detained are dozens of prominent journalists, cultural figures, lawyers and sports figures.

Other prominent people remain in detention in the crackdown on the protests, which are seen as the biggest challenge to the Islamic republic since the 1979 revolution.

They include the prominent dissidents Arash Sadeghi and Majid Tavakoli, as well as journalists Niloufar Hamedi and Elahe Mohammadi who helped expose the Amini case.

Renowned Iranian filmmakers Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof were detained this year even before the current protest wave began.

Some information for this report was provided by Agence France-Presse.

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