A journalist investigating the mass poisoning of thousands of schoolgirls in Iran has been seized by state security forces.
The poisoned pupils – most said to be girls – have apparently been dosed with toxic gas in the city of Qom, in central Iran, over the past three months.
Reporter Ali Portbatabaei was arrested on Sunday, 5th March, for reporting on the attacks, according to independent Iranian media.
The first poisonings took place in December last year, with dozens of schools now reported to be the targets of more attacks over the weekend (4th and 5th March).
Many patients have reported similar symptoms, such as respiratory problems, nausea, dizziness and fatigue.
The toxic dosing has caused widespread shock and condemnation across Iran.
Hundreds of parents have taken to the streets to protest against the authorities’ apparent inability to identify those responsible.
Thousands of schoolgirls are now said to have been affected, with parents now unsure whether they should send their children to school.
Pourtabatabei’s sister Fazela Tabatabei reportedly said: “My brother was detained this morning but we don’t know until now what the charges are.”
She added that it is currently unclear which branch of the Iranian regime detained her brother.
Pourtabatabei had reportedly worked in the past for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Tasnimnews.
Local media have reported that his arrest is an indication that the authorities are under growing pressure to silence the media from investigating the poisonings.
Dozens of journalists have reportedly been detained in the last few months for covering the nationwide protests following the death of Mahsa Amini.
Iranian forces have been cracking down on waves of civil disorder following the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, from Saqqez, Kurdistan Province.
She was on a visit to Tehran when she was arrested by morality police, accused of violating hijab rules on 13th September 2022.
She was allegedly beaten while in custody and spent the following days in a coma in the hospital before dying in an intensive care unit on 16th September.
The clinic where she was treated said in a now-deleted social media post that she had been admitted brain-dead.
Alleged medical scans of her skull leaked by hackers showed that she had suffered bone fractures, haemorrhages, and brain oedema.
Independent Iranian media have claimed that Mahsa’s medical records showing a history of heart disease that officials gave as the cause of death were faked by the Iranian government.
Numbers differ regarding how many people have been killed since the protests began.
The ongoing protests in Iran have killed at least 516 people, according to independent estimates.
It is also understood that at least 20,000 people have been arrested.