Iranian authorities are accusing five detained athletes from the southern city of Shiraz of plotting a bomb attack in the country, amid an ongoing brutal crackdown on nationwide protests.
The semiofficial Tasnim news agency, which is affiliated with the Islamic Republic Guards Corps (IRGC), on December 14 published a video of the four men and the woman allegedly confessing to the plot.
Islamic Republic authorities routinely extract confessions from political prisoners by force, which are then broadcast for propaganda purposes.
A source told IranWire that some of the accused had published scenes of protests on social media prior to their arrests.
Hessam Mousavi, a rock-climbing coach and former member of Iran’s national team, is among the group of alleged terrorists. He was arrested in the central city of Isfahan on October 1.
"From the first days since Hessam’s arrest, his family has been under pressure from the security forces. First, they said nothing special would happen, that it was a matter of a simple question with a simple answer and that they should remain silent for him to be released. They said, ‘If you talk to the media, it will cause problems for him,’" a source with knowledge of Mousavi's case told IranWire.
Two weeks after Mousavi’s arrest, the family was told that he is facing three charges that carry a death penalty: waging “war against God”, acting against national security and terrorism.
"Hessam's family was not allowed to talk to or visit him during this time. They don't know what happened to him", the source said.
Tasnim described Eshraq Najafabadi, who was arrested in Shiraz on November 9, as the "head of the bombing operation team".
Najafabadi is a mountaineer, rock climber and member of the Iranian national mountain biking team.
"After he was arrested, they did not find anything in his house…He was taken to his home for a forced confession," a source told IranWire.
Dana Shibani is another suspect in the case. The snowboard instructor was detained by security forces on November 10 while she was in a taxi. Her family has had no information about her since November 22.
Rock climber and snowboard instructor Amir Arslan Mahdavi was arrested in a street in Shiraz on the evening of October 26 and taken to an unknown location.
Mohammad Khiveh is the other arrested sportsman accused of being a member of the purported terrorist group.
According to information earlier received by IranWire, more than 30 athletes from Shiraz have been kidnapped and detained by the security forces over the past weeks.
Their families are not willing to speak about these arrests because they are under pressure from the authorities.
Many of these families have not been informed of the whereabouts of their loved ones.