DUBAI: Iranian armed forces have arrested an employee of an opposition television broadcaster, Iran International, while the individual was fleeing the country, its semi-official Fars news agency said on Thursday.

On Tuesday, Iran's intelligence minister, Esmail Khatib, called the London-based channel a "terrorist" organisation.

The arrest comes at a time of one of the boldest challenges to Iran's clerical rulers since the 1979 revolution amid nationwide protests sparked by the Sept. 16 death of Mahsa Amini in the custody of morality police for not wearing "appropriate attire".

"Recently, the agent carried out numerous activities and actions in slandering the Islamic Republic, inviting youth to riot and creating terror among the people," Fars said about the arrest.

Iranian media identified the arrested individual as Elham Afkari, who they say had been in contact with the TV channel.

The semi-official Student News Network broadcaster said she was the sister of Navid Afkari, a 27-year-old Greco-Roman wrestler executed in September 2020 after being convicted of stabbing a security guard to death during anti-government protests in 2018.

Afkari's family and activists had said Navid was tortured into making a false confession, claims which were denied by Iran's judiciary.

Iran International officials were not immediately available for comment.

Iran believes Saudi Arabia funds the opposition news outlet which has covered the protest movement extensively since it started. Saudi Arabia has not commented on Iran's accusations.

On Wednesday, Khatib warned Riyadh there was no guarantee Tehran would continue to maintain "strategic patience" towards its regional rival. (Reporting by Dubai Newsroom; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Tomasz Janowski)