Former BBC journalist Bahman Daroshafaei, who is now a translator for an NGO focusing on vulnerable children and women, was arrested on Wednesday (3 February) in Tehran. Daroshafaei, who is of Iranian-British nationality, is a former employee of the BBC's Persian service, which is loathed by the Iranian establishment.
The reason behind his arrest is not known, but is believed to be related to Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif's visit to London.
"The awkward timing of the arrest suggests that hardliners, who dominate the judiciary and the intelligence apparatus, may be seeking to undermine Zarif and the moderate faction in control of the government as the Iranian foreign minister visits the UK," reports the Guardian.
Kalame, a website representing the opposition, says Daroshafaei was arrested from his home by unidentified security personnel. They did not produce a warrant and maintained silence on where they were taking him, the report added.
In recent months, Daroshafaei had to undergo 40 rounds of interrogation and his gmail account was hacked, suggest reports. Earlier, many of his relatives were arrested during the disputed re-election of Iran's former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Daroshafaei, who left London two years ago, is also a translator for Mahi publishing company, besides working for an NGO. He has had a visible presence in social media sites by continuously writing about human rights, especially the plight of political prisoners in Iran.
Bilateral relations between Iran and UK took a turn for the worse in November 2011 when mobs vandalised the British embassy offices and ransacked diplomatic residences in Tehran, forcing the UK to sever all ties with Iran. Britain also expelled all Iranian diplomats from the country.
Relations improved after Hassan Rouhani came to power in 2013, the recent nuclear deal, the lifting of sanctions on Iran and its involvement in combating the Islamic State (Isis). Prime Minister David Cameron is believed to have invited Rouhani to attend the Supporting Syria and the Region conference organised by the UK, Germany, Kuwait, Norway and the UN. However, Iranian hardliners still consider Britain "the old fox".
Notorious for detaining journalists, Iran had already invited criticism from media watchdogs. Reporters Without Borders ranked Iran 173 out of 180 countries in its 2015 Press Freedom Index. "A total of 20 professional journalists and as many non-professional journalists are currently detained in Iran in connection with their reporting," it said.