Family Of RFE/RL Journalist Says His Body Is Still Missing In Iran

By RFE/RL's Radio Farda

The family of RFE/RL journalist Reza Haghighatnejad said in a statement on October 29 that all efforts to retrieve his body from Iranian security officials have remained unsuccessful so far.

The statement sent to RFE/RL’s Radio Farda said authorities have failed to inform the family which state organ has seized Haghighatnejad’s body following his October 25 repatriation to Iran for burial in his home province of Fars.

"We have turned to every institution and organization that came to our mind for help," the statement said.

“It is our humane and rightful wish to bury his body in his hometown, Dejkord, after so many years of forced separation so that at least now that it is no longer possible to visit him, we can visit his grave,” the statement added.

Haghighatnejad, 45, died of cancer on October 17 at the Charite Hospital in Berlin, and his body was repatriated to Iran for burial on October 25. However, his corpse went missing upon arrival amid unconfirmed reports that agents from the IRGC took it to an unknown location.

On October 27, Haghighatnejad's mother said Iranian security agents had abducted her son's body.

"This is the message of a mother who has not seen her son for six years and was unaware of his illness, and now that his body has returned to Iran, it has been abducted by the authorities at the airport," Beygumjan Raeisi said in a video.

She did not say whether she had official confirmation that her son's body had been taken by security agents. Iranian authorities have not publicly commented on the situation.

Relatives and friends told Radio Farda, where Haghighatnejad worked from 2019 until his death, that the necessary permits had been issued to bury his body in his hometown, the southern Iranian city of Shiraz.

Haghighatnejad left Iran amid increased pressure on journalists and started working with Persian-language media outside the country. He was not able to return to Iran because of his journalistic activities.

In an October 27 statement released to RFE/RL’s Radio Farda, the U.S. State Department expressed disgust over reports that Haghighatnejad’s body has been seized by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and called on Iranian authorities to immediately release his remains to his family.

State Department spokesman Ned Price on October 38 called on Iranian authorities to release Haghighatnejad’s body "immediately" to his family and said the episode showed the extent of intimidation of the press.

"The treatment of Reza Haghighatnejad underscores just how much Iran's leadership fears journalists even after their death," he said.

RFE/RL President and CEO Jamie Fly has called the Iranian regime’s treatment of Haghighatnejad's family "disgraceful and disgusting," adding they deserve to bury him without regime harassment.

The incident comes as Iran cracks down on protests triggered by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of Iran’s morality police.

With reporting by AFP