Report: Iran arrests founder of student charity, 2 aides

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iranian security forces on Monday arrested the founder of an influential student charity organization and two of his aides, and sealed the group’s offices in Tehran, a local news website reported.

The report by fararu.com said authorities appeared at the home of Sharmin Meimandinejad, the charity’s founder, and arrested him. It said that around the same time, Morteza Kaymanaeh, the spokesman for the charity, and another of its employees, Katayoun Afrazeh, were also arrested.

The report gave no details or the reason for the arrests and the police did not announce any charges against the three or the charity, named after Imam Ali, the Shiite Muslim sect’s most revered figure after the Prophet Muhammad.

Iranian hard-liners have in recent years criticized the charity, the Imam Ali’s Popular Students Relief Society, accusing it of misusing the organization for political purposes and defaming the system by highlighting Iran’s problems, as well as working with foreign countries and international bodies.

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The charity, founded in the early 2000’s with reportedly some 10,000 members, mainly organizes university students and other volunteers to help the poor and others in times of natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods.

Iran’s moderate President Hassan Rouhani recently said charities and non-governmental groups should not allow “dishonest individuals” to assume positions in them. In May, judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi warned about alleged plans by Iran’s “enemies” to fund charities for “hostile” purposes.

Iranian hard-liners accuse the West of seeking to topple the clerical establishment. These accusations have increased amid mounting U.S. pressure following President Donald Trump’s moves that pulled America out of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers and Washington’s reimposing of economic sanctions on Tehran.

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