Journalist and political analyst Morad Saghafi was arrested at his home in Tehran on Wednesday, March 15, just days after he had criticized Tehran Municipality and the mayor, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf.
Saghafi’s former lawyer Hamed Zargar told the Iranian Labor News Organization (ILNA) [link in Persian] that he had been unable to establish himself as the journalist’s power of attorney because the courts are now closed for the Persian new year holidays. He said that his family had not been informed of any charges or any reason for the arrest. Saghafi, the managing editor and publisher of the quarterly Goftegou (“Dialogue”), had been only able to call his family and tell them that he was under arrest.
Zargar said there was no hope that Morad Saghafi would be released before Nowruz, the first day of the Iranian new year, which falls on March 20. Officially, Saturday, March 18 is the last business day before the holidays, but processing bail would take at least 48 hours, making it impossible to secure his release before the new year.
This is the latest in a string of arrests in the run up to the holiday. On March 12, journalist Ehsan Mazandarani was arrested after being released only weeks before. He spent almost 15 months in prison, during which he suffered a heart attack. This followed reports that as many as 12 administrators for channels on the messaging app Telegram had also been arrested in late February.
According to BBC Persian [link in Persian], a few days prior to his arrest, Saghafi had criticized Tehran Municipality and the mayor during a meeting. “Only one person [in Tehran] holds the power and that person is the mayor,” he was reported as saying. “Nobody controls him and he can ignore the interests of the people, as he is doing now.” He said that the way Tehran had been managed had led to “financial corruption and tyranny.” He also said that those who wanted to be in the City Council should make themselves symbols of the fight against corruption.
In September 2016, two journalists were arrested after they disclosed Tehran’s city government involvement in massive corrupt housing and land deals. Since then there have been many calls for the Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf to be held accountable and to resign. However, Iran’s parliament recently ended its probe into the corruption case without taking any action.