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Telegram has been used widely by ordinary Iranian citizens as well as politicians, companies, and state media outlets. (illustrative photo)

Iran's judiciary has banned the use of the Telegram messaging app, saying it has been used to organize attacks and street protests, according to state television and a news agency affiliated with the judiciary.

A branch of the Culture and Media Court in Tehran announced that all Internet providers in Iran must take steps to block Telegram's website and app as of April 30, the Mizanonline news agency said.

A court order said that Telegram has become a "safe [place] for committing different types of crimes," adding that there are "thousands of open cases" related to its use and that Telegram has not cooperated with judiciary officials, Mizanonline reported.

The order asserted that many actions threatening Iran's security, including antiestablishment protests in December and January and attacks on parliament and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's shrine in June 2017, were organized using Telegram.

State TV also suggested that the decision to bar Iranians from using Telegram was motivated by national security concerns.

"Considering various complaints against the Telegram social networking app by Iranian citizens, and based on the demand of security organizations for confronting the illegal activities of Telegram, the judiciary has banned its usage in Iran," a state TV report said.

The court order was also reported by the semiofficial Fars news agency.

It is likely to reinforce concerns about freedom of expression and other basic rights in Iran, where Telegram has been used widely by ordinary citizens as well as politicians, companies, and state media outlets.

The authorities temporarily shut down Telegram in January in an effort to contain antiestablishment protests across the country, but many Iraniains found ways to continue using it.

In recent weeks, officials have been encouraging Iranians to use domestic alternatives to Telegram.

Earlier this month, the Iranian authorities banned the use of foreign messaging apps by government bodies.

Russia is also seeking to prevent its citizens from using Telegram.

With reporting by Mizanonline, Reuters, and Fars
A site in the southern Iranian city of Ahvaz that is believed to be a mass grave of victims killed in extrajudicial executions in 1988. (file photo)

Iran is deliberately destroying or concealing mass graves of victims from a 1988 spate of extrajudicial executions of political detainees, according to a new report by the nongovernmental watchdog Amnesty International and the London-based Justice For Iran.

The April 30 report alleges Tehran is erecting buildings or constructing roads over at least seven locations where some of the estimated 5,000 victims of the political purge are believed to have been buried.

Amnesty International experts based their assessment on satellite imagery and testimony of eyewitnesses at the sites in Iran's Gilan, East Azerbaijan, Kurdistan, Khuzestan, Khorasan Razavi, and Tehran provinces.

"The actions include: bulldozing; hiding the mass graves beneath new, individual burial plots; constructing concrete slabs, buildings, or roads over the mass graves; and turning the mass grave sites into rubbish dumps," the report states. "In at least three cases, the authorities appear to be planning actions that would further damage the mass graves."

The executions came at the end of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, which left more than 1 million people dead. When Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini accepted a UN-brokered cease-fire in July 1988, members of an Iranian opposition group called the Mujahedeen-e Khalq, which was based in Iraq and armed by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, launched a surprise attack against Iran.

The attack was used as a pretext to round up political opponents who were sent to be executed by "death commissions." International rights monitors estimate a total of 5,000 people were killed, while the Mujahedeen-e Khalq says the real figure was 30,000.

Tehran has never openly acknowledged the executions, which are believed to have been ordered by Khomeini.

"It has not become a part of history yet," Justice For Iran Executive Director Shadi Sadr told the Associated Press. "As long as those responsible for the crimes are still in power…it's not something that belongs to the past."

With reporting by AP

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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