DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Amnesty International has accused Iran of arresting more than 7,000 people last year, including journalists, lawyers, minority rights activists and women, in a “shameless campaign of repression.”
The new report published on Thursday came as the US released an American-born anchorwoman for Iranian state television after she was detained on a material witness warrant in Washington. Iranian officials and state media have widely condemned the arrest of Marzieh Hashemi.
Amnesty and the Committee to Protect Journalists noted Iran’s widespread arrest and harassment of journalists.
Amnesty said Iran arrested at least 50 media workers in 2018. It said at least 20 “were sentenced to harsh prison or flogging sentences after unfair trials.”
Overall, hundreds of dissidents were jailed or flogged, Amnesty said, at least 26 protesters against the regime were killed, and nine people died in custody in suspicious circumstances.
“Iranian authorities beat unarmed protesters and used live ammunition, teargas and water cannon throughout the year – particularly in January, July and August – with thousands arbitrarily arrested and detained,” according to a Guardian report on the Amnesty allegations.
“2018 will go down in history as a year of shame for Iran,” Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East research and advocacy director, was quoted saying. “The staggering scale of arrests, imprisonments and flogging sentences reveal the extreme lengths the authorities have gone to in order to suppress peaceful dissent.
“From underpaid teachers to factory workers struggling to feed their families, those who have dared to demand their rights in Iran today have paid a heavy price,” he noted. “Throughout 2018, the Iranian authorities waged a particularly sinister crackdown against women’s rights defenders. Governments which are engaged in dialogue with Iran must not stay silent while the net of repression rapidly widens.”
Hashemi, meanwhile, sent a message to supporters on Thursday.
She said in Farsi: “I have a lot of things to say about what I have suffered.”
Hashemi, 59, who works for the Press TV network’s English-language service, was detained by federal agents January 13 in St. Louis, Missouri, where she had filmed a Black Lives Matter documentary after visiting relatives in the New Orleans area, her son said. She was then transported to Washington and had remained behind bars until Thursday.
Hashemi appeared at least twice before a US District judge in Washington, and court papers said she would be released immediately after her testimony before a grand jury. Court documents did not include details on the criminal case in which she was named a witness.
US federal law allows judges to order witnesses to be detained if the government can prove that their testimony has extraordinary value for a criminal case and that they would be a flight risk and unlikely to respond to a subpoena. The statute generally requires those witnesses to be promptly released once they are deposed.
Hashemi is a US citizen and was born Melanie Franklin. She lives in Tehran and comes back to the United States about once a year to see her family, usually scheduling documentary work in the US, her son said.
Press TV issued a statement Wednesday, saying, “Marzieh Hashemi and her family will not allow this to be swept under the carpet. They still have serious grievances and want answers as to how this was allowed to happen. They want assurances that this won’t happen to any Muslim — or any other person — ever again.”
The network said Hashemi would remain in Washington for a protest Friday.
Hashemi’s detention comes amid heightened tensions between Iran and the US after President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal. Iran also faces increasing criticism of its own arrests of dual citizens and other people with Western ties.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.