Iranian officials said they identified the “agent of Iran International” arrested on Thursday as Elham Afkari, sister of the famous Iranian wrestler Navid Afkariwho was executed two years ago, according to the state news agency IRNA.
The opposition television channel, which Iran’s intelligence minister on Tuesday described as a “terrorist” organization, has denied any connection to Elham.
In a statement sent to CNN, the London-based broadcaster said Elham was “not an employee of Iran International, nor an employee or representative of the company.”
Her brother Navid Afkari was convicted of killing Hassan Torkman, a water company security guard, during a protest in Shiraz in 2018.
Afkari initially confessed to the crime, but in court he recanted these words, arguing that he had been tortured into a false confession.
“It should be noted that they [Elham Afkari] is the sister of Navid Afkari, the killer of the martyr Torkman, an employee of the Fars Provincial Regional Water Company,” IRNA reported.
“Secret agents have been monitoring Elham Afkari’s activities for the past several years,” IRNA said, adding that “she was one of the main leaders in organizing the recent riots.”
State media shared images allegedly showing Elham’s arrest. The images show a woman sitting in the back seat of a vehicle with barred windows, with a black blindfold covering her face.
Elham and Navid’s brother, Saeed Afkari, confirmed his sister’s arrest on Twitter on Thursday and said Elham’s three-year-old daughter is also missing.
He later said Elham was taken to a branch of Iran’s intelligence ministry and his sister’s spouse and daughter were released.
“Elham was transferred to Department of Intelligence Division #100,” he tweeted.
Since Navid Afkari’s execution, his family has faced many court cases for involvement in the 2018 demonstrations.
Vahid Afkari, one of his brothers, remains in solitary confinement, according to the human rights organization Iran Human Rights.
Iran International was founded in 2017 and has been at the forefront of reporting on recent demonstrations following the deaths of in custody Mahsa Amin – a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman who was arrested by morality police for allegedly not wearing her hijab properly.
However, the 24-hour news channel’s coverage of the demonstrations has put him under the surveillance of the Iranian government.
This week Iran International said two of its British-Iranian journalists working in the UK had been warned by police about a “credible” conspiracy Iran to kill her.
In a statement Monday, the Farsi channel said it was “shocked and deeply concerned” by the alleged deadly threats, while accusing Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) of being part of a “significant and dangerous escalation” of Tehran’s “campaign.” “to intimidate Iranian journalists working abroad.”
“Two of our British-Iranian journalists have been briefed on an increase in threats against them in recent days,” Iran International said in the statement.
“The Metropolitan Police have now officially informed both journalists that these threats pose an imminent, credible and significant risk to their lives and those of their families.”
Iran International did not name the journalists for security reasons.
The Committee to Protect Journalists said that as of Monday, at least 61 journalists have been arrested in Iran for covering, among other things, reporting on the protests, reporting on the deaths of protesters and taking photos of demonstrations, according to a report by the organization.