Iran social media activists held on ‘security’ charges

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Iranian social media activists arrested ahead of next month’s presidential elections are being held on security and obscenity charges, the judiciary said Wednesday.

“Some of these people have been arrested on national security charges and some... for committing crimes against public decency and publishing obscene content,” deputy judiciary chief Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejeie told the Mizan Online news agency.

Twelve people who run reformist and pro-government discussion forums on the popular messaging app Telegram were arrested last month.

Authorities released no information at the time of their arrests and the detainees have not appeared in open court.

Local media said the Telegram channels were shut down after the arrests. At least one was restored within a few days, but has not posted anything since March 17.

President Hassan Rowhani, who is expected to stand for a second term in May 19 elections, on Monday criticised the arrests.

“I ordered the ministers of interior and intelligence to follow it up. Based on the intelligence minister’s report, they haven’t committed a crime,” he told reporters.

But Ejeie said it was up to the courts to judge them.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards operate a separate intelligence service that is closely allied to the conservative-dominated judiciary and not answerable to the government.

Telegram, which has more than 20 million users in Iran, has attracted attention from authorities which want to force channels with more than 5,000 followers to register with the government.

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