Iran arrests sister and toddler niece of executed wrestler

Elham Afkari and 3-year-old daughter detained while trying to leave Iran

epa08663502 A undated handout photo made available 12 September 2020 by National Council of Resistance Iran (NWRI) and the Iranian Exile Society, showing Iranian champion wrestler Navid Afkari at a undisclosed location. Iran's national news agency IRNA confirmed 12 September 2020 Iran had executed Navid Afkari for a murder that he according to Iran's judicial authorities had confessed to. Many leading international organizations had protested the planned execution and asked Iran to spare Afkari's life.  EPA/NWRI HANDOUT  HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES
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The sister and niece of executed wrestler Navid Afkari have been arrested as they tried to leave Iran, according to reports.

Elham Afkari's arrest was reported by the semi-official Tasnim news agency and Fars News, which published purported photos of Afkari blindfolded in the back of a vehicle. Her husband and 3-year-old daughter were also detained, according to UK-based Farsi outlets.

Her brother Navid Afkari was executed in 2020 in a case that prompted international condemnation, including from the International Olympic Committee and former US president Donald Trump. He was accused of killing a security guard during anti-regime protests in 2018. He maintained his innocence until his death.

His family said he was tortured into making a confession. Two of his brothers are still held in jail and are said to have been tortured and denied medical care.

Tasnim accused Elham Afkari of working with Iran International, a UK-based Farsi-language news channel. It said she was detained by the Ministry of Intelligence while trying to flee the country with her family.

It accused her, among other allegations, of “helping to create unrest” and encouraging women to “riot”, a reference to women-led protests that have spread across the country and posed the most serious challenge to the regime since the 1979 revolution.

Iran International, which has closely covered the protests, said it “categorically denied” claims Ms Afkari had worked with them.

Tasnim is affiliated with the Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, which often spearheads the arrest and torture of political dissidents and dual and foreign nationals.

Italian woman released, two Spaniards detained

Iran has released an Italian woman it arrested last month after “intense diplomatic work,” the office of the Italian prime minister said on Thursday.

Alessia Piperno was detained in early October and told her parents she was being held in prison. She is now preparing to leave Iran and her parents have been informed of her release, said the office of Giorgia Miloni.

She is one of several foreigners arrested in Iran since protests began.

The activist HRANA news agency said the authorities are holding at least two Spanish citizens following the arrest of Ana Baneira, 24. It did not give details of her arrest or current whereabouts.

Another Spaniard, Santiago Sanchez, was arrested on October 1 after visiting the grave of Mahsa Amini, whose death ignited the fierce demonstrations against the ruling regime.

His arrest was confirmed by the Spanish foreign ministry.

Mr Sanchez is reportedly being held at a detention centre in the western city of Sanandaj.

Tehran often levels claims of espionage against dual and foreign citizens in an attempt to gain leverage over the West.

Last month, it released a video of French citizens it said were spies in footage denounced by many as forced confessions.

Updated: November 10, 2022, 1:38 PM