Various national and local officials in Iran have spoken of sweeping arrests across the country of people charged with “spreading rumors” and “disrupting the public opinion” by disseminating the truth about the Coronavirus outbreak in the country.
The head of the Justice Department of Qom on Monday gave news of the arrest of a nurse who had attempted to provide figures on the number of deaths due to Coronavirus in Qom.
According to the Chief Justice in Qom, the nurse was detained for three days. No information is available on his fate. The nurse whose identity has been kept anonymous is charged with disruption of the public opinion.
The Iranian regime arrested a soccer player for criticizing the regime’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis in northern Iran, the state-run ILNA News Agency said on March 12, 2020.
The captain of a soccer team in Gilan, northern #Iran was arrested by the Intelligence agents. He had recently criticized the authorities for mismanagement of the #COVID19 crisis.
Mohammad Mokhtari said that 100 people died every day in the province.#CoronavirusPandemic pic.twitter.com/7KkSxfXZww
— IRAN HRM (@IranHrm) March 12, 2020
Mohammad Mokhtari, the 36-year-old captain of the Damash soccer team in the northern province of Gilan was arrested on March 11 by the Intelligence Department of the IRGC’s Quds Force in Gilan upon orders of the province’s Prosecutor.
Mokhtari had criticized the regime in an Instagram post for its handling of the COVID-19 crisis and the large number of deaths in northern Iran. He accused the regime of covering up the real number of COVID-19 fatalities.
“In Gilan province alone, over a hundred people die every day from COVID-19,” he wrote on Instagram adding that there was no more room to bury the dead.
“The bodies are stacked on top of each other, and they want to put a few in one grave to save space. Then they falsely announce the number of fatalities in the media which only covers a percent of the actual figures,” Mohammad Mokhtari wrote.
In another post, he attacked Basij forces, the paramilitary arm of the IRGC, tasked with internal suppression of civil liberties and protests.
On February 16, 2020, the social deputy for the FATA Police was cited by Qudsonline.ir announcing the arrest of a man who had posted a video clip on the internet “disrupting the public opinion” by informing them of the hospitalization of man in Kurdistan for contracting the virus.
On the same day, the commander of the State Security Force of Bandar Anzali, in northern Iran’s Gilan Province, was cited by the official IRNA news agency as saying, “Agents of the FATA Police monitoring the cyberspace ran into two Instagram pages who were spreading news on the outbreak of the Coronavirus and disrupting the public opinion.”
At the same time, the FATA Police of Mazandaran reported on some arrests made on February 21, 2020: “Following the dissemination of interviews and news on the cyber space, social media and opposition channels on the outbreak of Coronavirus in one of the hospitals in Babol, we collected intelligence and used professional examinations, and consequently identified and arrested the persons involved in the production of this video clip and disseminating it.”
Citing the prosecutor of Dehloran county and without mentioning any details of the case or identities of those arrested, asriran.ir reported on February 17, 2020: “Following the dissemination of an audio file indicating the outbreak of coronavirus, the issue was quickly examined, and the persons involved in spreading this rumor were identified and arrested.”
On February 21, 2020, the commander of the Cyber Police said, “Following the monitoring of the cyber space and launching of a special working group in the FATA Police to fight those spreading rumors in the cyber space regarding the Corona outbreak in the country, 24 persons were arrested.”
And eventually, on February 28, 2020, Zare’e, the deputy Prosecutor of Qom announced the arrest of the person who had taken films from the mortuary in Qom. The arrested person who was a seminary student was arrested quickly in the early hours and his case was promptly handed over to the Judiciary.
Reporters without Borders has accused the Iranian regime of covering up the outbreak of coronavirus in Iran and of repressing independent reporting from Iran.