Fifty-one-year-old Hamid Massoumi Nejad, the Rome correspondent of Iran’s state broadcaster, was detained on March 3 along with another Iranian and five Italians on suspicion of planning the export to Iran of large quantities of antitank weapons and explosives, via countries such as Britain, Romania, and Switzerland.
Italian police say the two Iranians in custody and another two sought for the same operation are believed to be members of the Iranian secret services.
Iranian state television, however, links Nejad's arrest to his hard-hitting coverage of events in Italy, including a workers' strike, alleging that Italian authorities had warned him in recent months over of his "independent" reporting.
"The silence of the bodies that claim they defend the rights of journalists is worth noting considering the recent move by Italy’s government,” the Iranian report says.
RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports that Iran’s Foreign Ministry today summoned the Italian ambassador in Tehran to explain the arrests.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast describes the move as the "start of a new game with still ambiguous aims."