In an open letter, more than 500 Iranian film directors, authors, and legal experts have expressed concern over restrictions on the Imam Ali Society and demanded the immediate release of its founder and director.
The Imam Ali's Popular Students Relief Society, usually referred to as Imam Ali Society -- was founded in 1999 as the first non-political student NGO at Tehran's Sharif Industrial University. It now has an extensive network of thousands of volunteers, even in the remotest areas of Iran.
Referring to the Imam Ali Society as one of "the most successful non-governmental organizations in creating and using public participation to promote education, health, and reduce poverty and injustice in society,” the letter has urged the release of its founder and director.
Sharmin Maymandinejad was arrested on June 21, along with Morteza Kaymanesh, the Imam Ali Society's public relations officer and Katayoun Afrazeh, the organization's inspector. Ms. Afrazeh and Mr. Kaymanesh were released later on bail, while Mr. Maymandinejad is still behind bars.
The signatories to the letter include celebrities such as award-winning film directors, Jafar Panahi, Oscar-winning Asghar Farhadi, maestro Kayvan Kalhor, movie superstar, Fatemeh Motamed Aria, and renowned lawyer, Abdol Fattah Soltani.
A statement issued by the Imam Ali Jamiat has named the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps' (IRGC) "Sarollah Camp" as the plaintiff in the case. The statement says that the charges against the organization's director were "insulting" the Islamic Republic leader, the founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and "acting against national security."
The celebrities' letter underlines that, after years of efforts, the directors of the Imam Ali Society "have succeeded in supporting the economically vulnerable, by gaining public trust," and that its charitable activities now extend to "more than 44 centers in twenty out of 31 provinces of the country."
The signatories to the letter have also warned that "the long-term arrest and imprisonment of the founder and director of the charity will cause considerable social damage.
"Hundreds of families, who continue to live through these difficult times, thanks to the material and spiritual support of the Imam Ali Society, will soon face more problems."