Iran announces arrests in connection with schoolgirl poisoning

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March 7 (UPI) — Iranian officials said on Tuesday that people have been arrested in five provinces in connection to a series of mysterious poisoning targeting schoolgirls in the country.

Deputy Interior Minister Majid Mirahmadi said “a number of people” have been arrested and the “relevant agencies” are conducting investigations into the poisonings. State-run Iran media said the poisoning affected 1,200 Iranian schoolgirls since November, but one lawmaker put the actual number at 5,000, according to CBS News.

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The numbers rose dramatically over the weekend with students describing unexplained odors that smelled like paint in one instance, perfume in another and something burning at another location.

The girls said they experienced numbness, temporary paralysis or near blackouts after the smells arrived.

In the meantime, Iran’s judiciary charged three news media outlets and three individuals, including actor Reza Kianian, for making comments on the illnesses, accusing them of “spreading rumors and lies.”

Prosecutors said on Tuesday cases were filed against the editorial directors of the HamMihan, Roydad24, and Sharq newspapers, political activists Azar Mansouri and Kianian, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

The first report of the schoolgirl poisoning happened in November with 18 schoolgirls hospitalized after suffering symptoms that included nausea, headaches, coughing, breathing difficulties, heart palpitations, and numbness and pain in their hands or legs.

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Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other leaders have called it poisoning but the actual cause is still being investigated.

Protestors demonstrated against the poisonings in Tehran on Saturday amid reports that dozens more Iranian schoolgirls were hospitalized. An activist group released a video of demonstrators outside of the Iranian Ministry of Health.