Iran: “No Pardon” for Soheil Arabi, Blogger Sentenced to Hang for Facebook Posts Insulting ‘Prophet’
A leading Iranian judicial official told reporters there is “no pardon” for a blogger sentenced to death for allegedly insulting the Muslim ‘prophet’ Mohammed on Facebook.
On Monday, Gholam Ali Mohseni Ejei, Iran’s deputy judiciary chief, said the execution of 30-year-old Soheil Arabi would proceed as planned.
Arabi’s case gained national and worldwide attention after Iran’s Supreme Court upheld a death sentence for insulting the Islamic ‘prophet.’
Vahid Moshkani Farahani, Arabi’s lawyer, said a Tehran criminal court sentenced the man to death by hanging for insulting Mohammed, and that the high court added the ‘corruption on Earth’ charge, which is also punishable by death in the Islamic Republic.
According to Arabi’s wife Nastaran Naimi, intelligence agents linked to Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards arrested the couple at their Tehran home last November. Naimi was soon released. She is now pleading for her husband’s life, giving numerous interviews with foreign media outlets.
“We’re awaiting Islamic mercy” said Naimi. “When the Prophet Mohammed was directly insulted, he would forgive it.”
Arabi would seem to have Iranian law on his side. Article 263 of the revised Islamic Penal Code states that a person who “insults the Prophet” while drunk or by quoting others, among other acts, will be subjected to 74 lashes and not sentenced to death.
Naimi added that Arabi is “only a citizen and had no other activities.” She told the Center for Supporters of Human Rights that the only evidence used against him were “printouts of Facebook pages” and “confessions that were attained under pressure from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.”
International human rights groups urged Iranian authorities to spare Arabi’s life.
“It is simply shocking that anyone should face the gallows simply because of Internet postings that are deemed to be crude, offensive, or insulting,” saidEric Goldstein, deputy Middle East and North Africa director for Human Rights Watch. “Iran should urgently revise its penal code to eliminate provisions that criminalize peaceful free expression, especially when they punish its exercise with death.”
According to Reporters Without Borders, Iran is one of the world’s leading jailers of journalists and bloggers.
“With 65 journalists and netizens in prison, Iran is still one of the world’s biggest prisons for people working in the media,” said Reza Moïni, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan desk.
“Nothing came of President Hassan Rohani’s promises to free all prisoners of conscience,” added Moïni. “His silence makes it easier to crack down on freedom of information. It is his duty to ensure the constitution is applied and he is responsible for the fate of everyone on Iranian soil.”