Iranian Intelligence arrest alleged "Israeli spy blogger" for "." tweet

Iranian Intelligence arrest alleged
Hossein Shanbehzadeh has become the latest victim of sensitive officials in Iran after tweeting "." / bne IntelliNews
By bne Tehran bureau June 6, 2024

Iranian authorities have arrested blogger and proofreader Hossein Shanbehzadeh, alleging that he is an Israeli spy in Ardabil Province, northwestern Iran, IRGC-linked Tasnim news agency reported on June 5.

Shanbehzadeh came to the attention of the authorities when he responded to a tweeted picture of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei posing with the Iranian national volleyball team on social media platform X by tweeting “.” The fullstop response triggered a great deal of "likes", which appeared to spook the security services.   

The arrest of Shanbehzadeh is the latest in a series of recent detentions made by Iranian authorities targeting individuals critical of the regime. Human rights organisations have repeatedly accused Iran of using espionage charges to silence dissent and suppress freedom of expression in the country.

According to Jalal Afaghi, the Prosecutor General and Revolutionary Prosecutor of Ardabil, the accused was wanted by the Ministry of Intelligence and was arrested in Ardabil following a judicial order and the efforts of the province's central prosecutor's office, with the assistance of soldiers of Imam Zaman (a reference to intelligence agents).

Afaghi stated that Shanbehzadeh, originally from a southern province of Iran, had been communicating with high-ranking officers of Israel's Mossad intelligence service through a social media network.

Under the guise of editorial activities, he allegedly collected information required by Mossad from within the country.

The prosecutor added that due to the pursuit of the Ministry of Intelligence, the accused had visited several provinces with the intention of hiding and ultimately fleeing the country.

However, upon entering Ardabil, he was arrested in a surprise operation by intelligence agents.

Afaghi said that news of Shanbehzadeh's arrest in Ardabil was immediately broadcast by several foreign-based opposition media outlets including Iran International.

Tasnim claimed that Shanbehzadeh “had a history of insulting the Imams and sacred figures of Islam.” later showed that his account had been deactivated, saying, "Account suspended. X suspends accounts which violate the X Rules."