Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad embraces Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez during a welcoming ceremony for Chavez in Tehran, Iran on October 19, 2010. UPI/Maryam Rahmanian | License Photo
TEHRAN, Nov. 9 (UPI) -- Iran is cracking down on political activists ahead of a controversial plan to cut back on fuel and basic food subsidies, a human rights official said.
Tehran received international criticism for its violent reaction to opposition protests that greeted the controversial re-election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009.
During the weekend, four members of the student movement Office for Fostering Student Unity were arrested as part of a crackdown ahead of planned cuts in subsidies, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Iran is feeling the pressure from unilateral and international sanctions imposed as punishment for a controversial nuclear program.
The government is slashing $100 billion in subsidies under the terms of a five-year economy plan.
Hadi Ghaemi, director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, said the Iranian government is trying to suppress any voice of opposition.
"Day to day, the regime is systematically targeting different groups, like lawyers, students and journalists, in order to prevent them from activism," he told the Journal.
Ahmadinejad defended Iran's human rights record during the U.N. General Assembly meeting in September, saying all of Iran's "opponents and their leaders are free."
Family members of the four students said they were detained without warrant and taken to an undisclosed location in Iran.