Security forces have seized an Australian-Iranian demographer as Iran’s regime issues a warning to academics over their research.

Meimanat Hosseini-Chavoshi (pictured), who works at the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, was detained as she was leaving Iran. State media said she has been charged with trying to “infiltrate” Iranian institutions.

Hosseini-Chavoshi is co-author of Developments in Fertility in Iran and of Population Developments in Iran, a book sponsored by the Iranian President’s Strategic Studies Center in 2017.

Last week the hardline newspaper Kayhan reported the arrest of several population “activists…who, under the cover of scientific activities, had infiltrated state bodies”. The outlet, close to the Supreme Leader’s office, said the detainees manipulated statistics and gave sensitive information to Iran’s enemies who are pursuing “cultural and social invasion”.

Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei told reporters on Sunday, “One person has been arrested in this regard…and three or four people are being sought.”

Iranian media have identified another target as “M.A.” The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran believes he is Mohammad Jalal Abbasi, a professor of demography at Tehran University.

However, hardline media outlets such as the Kayhan newspaper, Fars News agency and Mashregh news website have said that several university professors have been arrested as part of the demographers’ case.

Iran has imprisoned a series of foreign nationals, including academics, since the disputed 2009 Presidential election. Some have been released after years, but others are still held. They include Anglo-Iranian charity Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, serving a five-year sentence; American-Iranian oil executive Siamak Namazi and his 82-year father, Canadian-American Baquer Namazi, handed 10-year terms; and American Ph.D. candidate Xiyue Wang, also punished with 10 years.

Last week, the families of six imprisoned foreign nationals wrote an open letter to world leaders and international human rights organizations, seeking attention to the cases.

six of dual nationals languishing in Iranian jails without legal or other justifications, wrote a letter to world leaders and international human rights organizations explaining the ordeal of the prisoners and their families, calling for international attention to their cases.

Eight Iranian environmentalists were arrested in January over their research. One — Kavous Seyed-Emami, a Tehran University professor and founder of the Persian Heritage Wildlife Foundation — died in suspicious circumstances in Tehran’s Evin Prison.