On Tuesday, Iranian media reported the arrest of a Chinese citizen inside the country for publishing compromising videos of young Iranian women without their consent while making allegations about their private lives.
The young man’s identity has not been shared, but a picture of his face has been broadcast by Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB). It is unclear whether why he was in Iran but he described himself as a tourist in his videos. At least 50,000 Chinese people work and live in the country.
In one of the suspect’s videos, after which he was arrested after a complaint from private plaintiffs, the man had claimed: "You can get anything in Iran for $50!"
The detainee had posted videos of his meetings with young Iranian women and girls on YouTube and social media, claiming that getting to know Iranian women was “easy” and they were good candidates for marriage – either because they might make money out of it, or because they were sweet and talkative. Elsewhere, though, he called them "jealous” people.
Iranian state-controlled media claimed the man had been posting videos of private encounters for a long time, but had later apologized in an English-language video and deleted them after a social media backlash.
His arrest also made the international news, with Iran’s Mehr News Agency and the IRIB quoted by Reuters. The latter said: “The Chinese Foreign Ministry, which has close ties to Iran, has not responded to a request from Reuters to comment on the detention.”
Under domestic law, any foreign national who has been detained in Iran ought to enjoy certain specified rights including contact with their close family members, a lawyer, and meetings with representatives of their own country. The law also stipulates that charges against them must be announced promptly.
Meanwhile Iran’s Computer Crimes Law, enacted in 2009, allows for either imprisonment or fines to be issued to people who publish pictures or video content of people without their consent in a way that would “harm their dignity”.
Even if the plaintiff gave consent at the time, the publisher can still be prosecuted if they share compromising pictures or videos online based on other stringent laws in the Islamic Republic. Article 17 of the law stipulates a sentence of 91 days to two years in prison, or a fine of five to 40 million rials, or both, depending on the crime.
Days before the Chinese national was arrested, the Iranian website Rokna News announced that he had shared around 50 videos of personal encounters with young women without their consent. It added that most of subjects were aged under 18 and the man had claimed to be sharing their “culture” with the wider world.
The police investigation is understood to have been launched on May 27 after a case was filed by the Islamic Republic of Iran Law Enforcement Force (NAJA). Ruhollah Dehghani, the public prosecutor of Kashan city in Isfahan province, then announced on the morning of June 1 that the man had been arrested the night before at a tollbooth on Kashan Highway and would be transferred to Tehran with a police escort.
In the official report, NAJA’s Colonel Ahmad Khosravi said that based on the published content, the foreign national appeared to have had “unconventional” relationships with Iranian women and was arrested after multiple complaints.