8 Arrested in Iran for Commemorating Slain Dissident Writer

Eight people have been arrested in Iran for holding a memorial ceremony for a dissident writer who was murdered by conservative radicals in 1998, Iran's Students News Agency (SNA) reported Saturday, December 2.

The eight were arrested Thursday at the Hojjat Ibn al-Hassan Mosque in Tehran, where they held the memorial ceremony for Majid Sharif, who was killed along with four other dissident writers and political activists in November 1998.

Those arrested included Sima Sahebi, widow of one of the assassinated writers named Mohammad Jafar Pouyandeh, and Mohsen Hakimi, an investigative newspaper editor, as well as six other political dissidents, the report said.

The arrests were made while the eight were leaving the ceremony peacefully, witnesses were quoted as saying, adding that police and plainclothes were present in the ceremony in "large numbers."

The 1998 "serial killings" have been a sensitive topic in Iran as they are reportedly related to some senior officials in the Intelligence Ministry.

Similar arrests have been made recently during memorial ceremonies held for other victims of the serial killings, including dissident political activist Darioush Forouhar and his wife Parvaneh.

Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi on Wednesday said that his ministry had arrested several people who were charged with distributing a "night letter" which implicated state officials in the murders.

The conservative judiciary has also warned the press against any comments on the serial killings. Some newspaper editors have been summoned by courts for publishing stories related to the case.

It was announced recently that 18 people were to go on trial on December 23 for alleged complicity in the serial murders.

The murders were blamed on "rogue" agents of the Intelligence Ministry. The mastermind, Saeed Emami, a top official of the ministry at the time of the killings, committed suicide while in prison custody.

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