Reports: Iran arrests German for photographing oil facility

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A German national has been arrested in Iran after photographing an oil facility, two semi-official news agencies reported on Tuesday.

The Tasnim news agency and the Student News Network, both close to Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, said the individual was taking photographs at the Omidiyeh oil facility in the southwestern Khuzestan province. They did not provide further details.

Iran’s security forces have been on high alert amid four months of anti-government protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was being held by the morality police for allegedly violating the country’s strict Islamic dress code.

The protests quickly escalated into calls for the overthrow of the theocracy and mark one of the biggest challenges it has faced in more than four decades.

Iran has blamed the unrest on the U.S. and other foreign powers, without providing evidence. The protesters say they are fed up with social and political repression, corruption and an economy weighed down by Western sanctions and mismanagement.

Iran has arrested a number of foreigners in recent years, accusing them of undermining state security and trying them in secretive Revolutionary Courts that have been condemned by rights groups. Critics accuse Iran of using the foreigners as hostages to wring concessions from the West, allegations denied by Tehran.

U.N. rights experts on Tuesday condemned Iran’s detention of 41-year-old Belgian aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele, who was sentenced last week to more than a decade in prison and 74 lashes over charges of espionage and money laundering.

“We believe Mr Vandecasteele has been arbitrarily deprived of his liberty and is a victim of enforced disappearance for periods of detention,” they said in a statement. “His right to a fair trial before an independent and impartial tribunal has been violated. These are flagrant violations of Iran’s obligations under international law.”

They said Vandecasteele, who was arrested last February, has been held in solitary confinement and suffers from serious health problems.

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