A Spanish football fan traveling from Madrid to Doha, Qatar, for the World Cup has been arrested in Iran after visiting Mahsa Amini’s grave, according to two reports surfaced on Tuesday.
Santiago Sanchez’s family went out earlier in the day with a plea for information about his whereabouts after silence on entering Iran. The 41-year-old is an experienced trekker, former paratrooper and avid football fan. His family last heard from him in an audio message on Oct. 2.
Hengaw says: ‘Sánchez, a 41-year-old tourist from Spain, was kidnapped by Iranian security forces after visiting the grave of Zhina (Mahsa) Amini in Saqqez.
“Hengaw’s sources, whose identity remains protected for security reasons, stated that Santiago Sánchez is being held in the Iranian intelligence detention center in Sanandaj.”
Amini, 22, died on Sept. 16, three days after she was taken into custody by Iran’s notorious vice squad for allegedly not wearing her hijab correctly while in the Iranian capital, Tehran.
Her death has sparked uprisings in Iran and communities around the world, with protesters ultimately seeking a regime change from the Islamic republic that rules the country.
Iran’s rulers have responded violently to protesters and have also accused foreign countries of trying to sow unrest.
Santiago Sanchez was last photographed (above) on October 1 before entering Iran
The death of Mahsa Amini on September 16 has sparked furious protests against Iran’s rulers
The Real Madrid fan is in the final stages of a mammoth walk from Madrid to Doha in Qatar
In this image capture from a video, the 41-year-old speaks to The Associated Press on a street in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq on Sept. 28. He has not been heard from since he entered Iran
In a separate report on Tuesday, Iran International quoted Iran’s judicial spokesman as confirming that more foreigners had been arrested on charges of attempted damage to national security.
The judiciary referred to a ‘case of the French spies’, but did not elaborate on how many arrests had been made in total and from which countries the foreigners came.
Sanchez had previously said his trip to Qatar was to learn how others lived before reaching the Arab World’s first host nation of the World Cup, in time for Spain’s first game on November 23.
“The idea of the trip is to motivate and inspire other people to show that they can go very far with very little,” he told the AP from Sulaymaniyah, a Kurdish city in northeastern Iraq.
However, Sanchez’s family last heard from him on October 2, a day after he crossed the Iraq-Iran border.
He planned to go to the Iranian capital Tehran, where a television station apparently wanted to interview him. His next move would have been Bandar Abbas, a port in southern Iran, where he would travel to Qatar by boat.
“We’re very worried, we can’t stop crying, my husband and I,” his mother, Celia Cogedor, told The Associated Press.
Sanchez’s parents reported him missing on October 17, and they said Spanish police and diplomats were helping the family.
“After a few days, we weren’t worried that he wouldn’t post; it matched what he had said. But after eight or nine days, my daughter and his best friends… we were already starting to think we should report his disappearance,” his mother said.
Sanchez’s parents look at a photo of their son on a phone at their home in Henches, Spain
Sanchez traveled to Qatar on foot ahead of Spain’s first game of the tournament
Sanchez’s disappearance sparks fear over his fate in a country ravaged by mass unrest
Sanchez is smiling in this undated family photo on the condition that the Sanchez Cogedor family
In this photo, the Sanchez Cogedor family, Sanchez poses with his sister Natalia
Spain’s foreign ministry said it had no information on Sanchez’s whereabouts, adding that the Spanish ambassador to Tehran was handling the matter. Calls to Iran’s foreign ministry for comment were not immediately answered.
In his latest Instagram post, Sanchez shared photos from his last stop in northern Iraq, saying he “spent the night there before crossing over to Iran, where a family is waiting for me who found out about my trip and they wanted to share a day.” with me.’
He then ended the post with: “Travel but run away from nothing and less from yourself. Lose yourself to find yourself.’
Sanchez previously spent time in Iran in 2019, when he cycled a similar route to get from Madrid to Saudi Arabia.
“He has made no propaganda, neither for nor against any situation,” his parents added. “The only thing that moves him is supporting Real Madrid – and running to get to the World Cup in Qatar on time.”
Calls have been made for World Cup organizer FIFA to kick Iran out of the tournament next month for supplying Russia with drones to aid its invasion of Ukraine.
Iran plays in the tournament against England, the United States and Wales.
The 41-year-old is an experienced trekker, former paratrooper and avid football fan
Santiago Sanchez Sr, his concerned father, shows a phone with a family photo of his son