By Jaime Leon
Tehran, Dec 21 (EFE).- Iranian sports stars, actors and other public figures who have voiced their support for the nationwide anti-government protests roiling the country are facing a brutal response from the clerical regime, which is pursuing death sentences, arrests and asset confiscation.
Among the latest cases are that of soccer player Amir Nasr-Azadani, who could face possible execution over his alleged role in killing security officials, and Taraneh Alidoosti, a famous Iranian actress who was arrested for speaking out against executions of protesters.
Nasr-Azadani, Alidoosti, and many other famous people have prosecuted for publicly expressing solidarity with the demonstrations triggered by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody in September after being arrested by the morality police for allegedly violating Iran’s strict dress code.
Celebrities are just a fraction of those who have taken part and backed the uprising, but authorities fear their ability to influence others, amplify voices and mobilize people.
Rallies, however, have abated in recent weeks after more than three months of unrest that has led to almost 500 deaths 18,000 arrests nationwide, and 400 jail sentences in the capital Tehran alone.
Nasr-Azadani’s case has sparked international outrage and even Colombian singer Shakira supported him in a tweet shortly before the 2022 Qatar World Cup final.
The 26-year-old is accused of “enmity against God” for allegedly being involved in killing three security personnel during a riot in the city of Isfahan on November 16. The soccer player denies such allegations but admits participating in protests demanding more freedoms.
Karate champion Mohammad Mehdi Karami, 22, was sentenced to death over his alleged involvement in the killing of a member of the paramilitary Basij force in Karaj, near Tehran.
“I respectfully ask the judiciary, I beg you please, I ask you… to remove the death penalty from my son’s case,” his father Mashallah Karami said in an unverified video posted to Twitter.
Eshragh Najafabadi, a former member of Iran’s national mountain bike team, could also face the death penalty.
Najafabadi and four other climbers confessed last week on camera to being involved in planning a bomb attack in the southern city of Shiraz.
Video confessions in Iran are common but international human rights groups say they are forced.
Iranian soccer legend Ali Daei publicly backed the protests earlier this month and the authorities lashed out by shutting down his Tehran restaurant and jewelry store.
Alidoosti, among the most famous actresses in Iran, was arrested over the weekend for “publishing false and distorted content and inciting riots” after condemning the execution of protester Mohsen Shekari.
She posted a video of herself without her headscarf on social media in November, holding a sign that read the protest motto “woman, life and freedom.”
The 38-year-old star won several awards throughout her career and is known for her role in The Salesman, directed by two-time Oscar winner Asghar Farhadi in 2016.
Alidoosti was not the first actress to get in trouble for supporting the protests.