TEHRAN (Reuters) - Five lawyers have been arrested in Iran for security-related offences, a local news agency said on Sunday, the latest in a series of arrests of human rights’ activists since last year’s disputed presidential election.
Tehran general prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said three of the lawyers were arrested when they returned from a trip to Turkey, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.
“Two other lawyers related to the three were also detained in Iran,” the prosecutor told Fars.
“They have been detained for committing security-related offences and violating the Islamic Republic’s moral standards outside Iran,” he said, without elaborating on the charges.
Sara Sabaghian, Maryam Kian-Ersi and Maryam Karbasi were arrested at Tehran’s International Imam Khomeini Airport on Saturday, the Sharq newspaper reported.
Opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi’s website said the “whereabouts of the three women lawyers are unknown.”
“The three were arrested by security forces ... Sabaghian is a member of a committee for defending rights of women and children. She was once detained on July 8,” the opposition website Kaleme reported, without giving a source.
Sabaghian also represented Hossein Ronaghi-Maleki, a blogger, who is serving a 15-year jail term and was detained after the presidential election, which the opposition says was rigged to secure President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election.
The authorities say it was the fairest vote in three decades.
The Kaleme website said Maryam Kian-Ersi defended “a woman who had been sentenced to stoning to death for adultery a few years ago.”
Analysts say such arrests are part of an intensified clampdown on activists, dissidents, journalists and lawyers to uproot the opposition. The authorities deny they jail critics.
“All of our opponents and their leaders are free. We do not have any imprisoned critics or opponents,” Ahmadinejad said in September while visiting the United Nations in New York.
International rights’ organisations have also criticised the detention of human rights’ lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh.
Sotoudeh, a mother of two, was arrested in September and faces trial on charges of threatening national security. Sotoudeh ended a dry hunger strike — where a person consumes neither liquids or food — last week, Iranian websites said.
Two prominent human rights’ lawyers who worked with Iran’s 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, were also detained after the presidential election.
An outspoken critic of the Iranian judicial system Mohammad Mostafaei fled Iran in July after being questioned by Iranian authorities. His wife and brother-in-law were also briefly detained, according to a report by Amnesty International.
One of Mostafaei’s clients was Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a woman who faced punishment by stoning for alleged adultery, a case that provoked widespread international condemnation.
Judiciary chief Sadeq Larijani has warned lawyers over criticising the judicial system and on giving interviews to foreign media, the moderate Arman newspaper reported on Sunday.
Editing by Susan Fenton