A popular Iranian former football (soccer) player has been charged in absentia for supporting ongoing antigovernment protests, Iran International has learned.
Ali Karimi who is currently abroad has been charged with unlawful “assembly and collusion with the intention of acting against national security.” This is an accusation the Islamic Republic regularly uses against dissidents and critics, with the slightest comment by an individual as grounds for a political crime.
Ali Karimi was one of the first celebrities who condemned the death of Mahsa Amini, who was killed while in the custody of Iran’s hijab police in September. Since then, Karimi has voiced support for protesters on social media becoming an icon for them. His tweets regularly generate more than 100,000 ‘likes’.
Iran International obtained the copy of a court document showing that Karimi has been charged. Although he is not in Iran, but his assets can be seized by the authorities.
Last week, security agents sealed the entrance of a villa near Tehran which was Karimi’s house, but later they removed the seal as they realized he had sold the property to someone else.
The popular protests in Iran do not have a clear leadership structure and are driven by teenagers and young people. Many celebrities who cooperate with the government to preserve their privileges in an authoritarian system, are careful not to praise the protesters. But those who side with them easily become more popular.