Soheil Arabi has been sentenced to death on charges of 'sowing corruption on Earth' and 'insulting the prophet' over Facebook posts he made.
The Supreme Court in Iran has rejected an appeal by an Iranian blogger sentenced to death for 'insulting the prophet' to spare his life. Soheil Arabi, aged 30, was arrested alongside his wife in late 2013. Although his wife was later released, Soheil was sentenced to death for comments made on Facebook pages that he operated.
The case was heard by the Supreme Court on November 24. On December 1, deputy head of the judiciary gave a statement in response to a question about the case at a press conference. Gholam Ali Mohseni Ejei said "Currently, there is no pardon, and he’s been convicted of ‘corruption on Earth,’ but there has been a request for his case to be reviewed again."
Soheil Arabi's lawyer said that the 'corruption on Earth' charge, which also carries the death penalty, had been added by the Supreme Court when they heard the case. He told Human Rights Watch that even according to the Iranian penal code this was unlawful.
Human Rights Watch's Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director, Eric Goldstein, roundly condemned the slated execution. In a statement he said "It is simply shocking that anyone should face the gallows simply because of internet postings that are deemed to be crude, offensive, or insulting. 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 the original verdict: "Soheil had eight Facebook pages under different names, and he was charged with insulting the Imams and the Prophet because of the contents of those pages."
Soheil confessed to the charges, but only after he was kept in solitary confinement in the notorious Evin Prison for two months and denied access to his lawyer. He later claimed that his confession was extracted under duress.
Islamic legal expert Mohammed Nayeri told The Independent that under the Iranian judicial system "the accused may be detained and denied any access to legal counsel until the interrogations are over which may take months. They may also experience unbearable pressure, in some cases torture, from their interrogators to confess to their crimes."
Since the Supreme Court's verdict, the case has now been moved forward and may be implemented soon. Soheil's wife, Nastaran Naimi told Human Rights Watch that she had not yet told their five year old daughter what was happening. Instead, she said, "We’ve told her that he’s gone away for work."
Since President Hassan Rouhani came to power in Iran the number of executions has skyrocketed. According to the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center 773 people were executed in Rouhani's first year in office, compared to 530 people during Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's last year in officer. Iran has the highest rate of executions in the world.
Several high profile executions have occurred this year. Reyhanneh Jabbari, aged 26, was hanged in late October despite an international outcry for killing her would-be-rapist when she was 19. Rights groups charged that her confession was extracted under torture.
In June the regime executed political activist Gholamreza Khosravi Savadjani on charges of Moharabeh (enmity against god). He was killed for making a donation to an opposition run TV channel. On the night before the execution, Amnesty International issued a call for an immediate halt of sentence, to no avail.
The head of the Iranian Judiciary's Human Rights Council Javed Larijani said in March that instead of criticizing Iran's high rate of executions: "our expectation of international organizations and the world is to be grateful for this great service to humanity"
Watch the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran music video against executions in Iran:
See a chart of the Iranian regime's executions in 2014 from the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center.
For more information on the Iranian regime's persecution of its political enemies see Clarion Project's Factsheet: Human Rights in Iran