TEHRAN, Iran – After Iranian officials began arresting student activists involved in a rare campus protest against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Abbas Hakimzadeh fled 500 miles east to his home in Mashhad. On June 6, plainclothes security men caught up with him, lawyers say.
Also arrested was Ali Saberi. He and Hakimzadeh had helped organize the protest that greeted Ahmadinejad when he visited elite Amir Kabir University in December. Reformist students heckled the leader, burned his picture and argued with a group of conservative students.
Three fellow activists involved in the protest, and three editors of Amir Kabir student newspapers, are also under arrest. The journalists are accused of putting out editions mocking hallowed institutions, including supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Prophet Muhammad.
The students' supporters insist it was a setup — that their opponents faked the newspapers to give authorities a pretext to arrest the reformists.
"If you put such an article anywhere, you will have trouble. Everyone knows that," said Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, a lawyer for several Amir Kabir students. "Maybe the main reason for doing this action toward the students is that other universities learn not to do the same thing."
The students' supporters said the arrests were clearly retaliation for their involvement in the protest.
"All of them were involved in the day that Mr. Ahmadinejad gave a speech," said Yusuf Molaie, a Tehran University professor and lawyer for several of the students. "It's a reaction to the incident of that day."