Niece of Iran’s supreme leader jailed in Tehran

 Although no charges were announced, Farideh Moradkhani’s praise of the ex-Shah’s widow in October is likely the cause for her arrest.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s niece was arrested last week, the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) reported.

According to the U.S.-based agency that covers human rights abuses in the Islamic Republic, Iranian intelligence agents took Farideh Moradkhani into custody in Tehran while she was on her way home, stopping to search her residence and seize some of her personal belongings.

Contacting her family on Friday, she told them that she had been transferred to an intelligence ministry wing at the Evin Prison. Evin is notorious for housing political prisoners and committing serious human rights abuses against them.

“We are very worried,” her brother Mahmud, who lives in France, told London-based Iran International TV on Sunday.

No official word has been given as to the charges against the civil rights activist, who advocates for civil freedoms and is known for her public opposition to the death penalty.

Iran is second only to China in the number of people it executes each year for criminal offenses – and political ones as well, according to its critics.

One possible reason that has been floated for Moradkhani’s arrest is a poem she recited during an October video conference in honor of the 83rd birthday of Farah Diba, the widow of the former Shah of Iran.

The royal family escaped to France in 1979 at the beginning of the Islamic Revolution.

In a video clip tweeted by the American-based National Union for Democracy in Iran, Moradkhani calls the ex-empress “dear mother of my homeland,” adding that on the day she left, “all the flowers faded,” art and culture died, and “blackness enveloped this house.”

She called Diba an “inspiration” to her people and wished for her return, which would “bring the light to break the night’s tyranny” and return “glory and splendor to this downtrodden house.”

When she finished speaking, Diba blew her a kiss.

Moradkhani’s opposition to the regime is nothing new in the family. She is the daughter of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s sister, who fled to Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. Her father, Sheikh Ali Tehrani, spent some nine years in Iranian prison in the 1990s for his dissident activities.