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Iranian footballer arrested amid scrutiny at the World Cup

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran arrested a former senior member of its national soccer team on Thursday over his criticism of the government as authorities grapple with nationwide protests that have overshadowed their World Cup rivals.

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The semi-official Fars and Tasnim news agencies reported that Furiya Ghafouri was arrested on charges of “insulting the national soccer team and propaganda against the government.”

Ghafouri, who was not selected to go to the World Cup, has been an outspoken critic of the Iranian authorities throughout his career. He objected to a long-standing ban on female spectators at men’s soccer matches as well as Iran’s confrontational foreign policy, which led to heavy Western sanctions.

More recently, he expressed sympathy for the family of a 22-year-old woman whose death while in the custody of Iran’s morality police sparked recent protests. He also called in recent days for an end to the violent suppression of protests in the Kurdistan region in western Iran.

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