Two former members of Iran’s national football team arrested in connection with nationwide anti-government demonstrations have been released on bail, the judiciary’s Mizan news agency reported.
The November 29 report came hours before Iran was set to play the United States at the World Cup in Qatar that the clerical regime is heavily promoting as it grapples with unabated protests demanding more freedom and women’s rights.
Parviz Boroumand, a retired goalkeeper, was arrested nearly two weeks ago on charges of participating in protests in Tehran and of damaging property.
Voria Ghafouri, who plays for the Khuzestan Foolad team in the southwestern city of Ahvaz, was arrested last week for criticizing the government during the ongoing nationwide protests.
Ghafouri, a member of Iran’s Kurdish minority, has been an outspoken critic of Iranian authorities and policies, objecting to a ban on women spectators at men’s soccer matches, among other things.
He has also called for an end to the ongoing bloody clampdown on demonstrations in Iran’s western Kurdish regions.
The protest movement marks one of the biggest challenges to the ruling clerics since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that brought them to power.
More than 440 people have been killed in the state crackdown on demonstrations, including dozens of children, according to one human rights group. Thousands of people have also been arrested. At least six people have so far been sentenced to death over the protests.