A 30-year-old Iranian blogger was recently sentenced to death for insulting Prophet Mohammad via a Facebook post. Soheil Arabi was convicted by a criminal court in Tehran earlier this year after he admitted to posting some defamatory content against the Prophet. His lawyers argued that Arabi had posted the content while being ill and that he was only sharing his personal views with others but the country’s Supreme Court upheld his conviction in November. The court also charged Arabi with “sowing corruption on earth,” which is a crime punishable by death and cannot be pardoned.
“Currently, there is no pardon, and he’s been convicted of 'corruption on Earth,'” said Gholam Ali Mohseni Ejei, deputy head of Iran's judiciary. “But there has been a request for his case to be reviewed again.”
Arabi’s wife, Nastaran Naimi, alleges her husband was coerced to admitting guilt under pressure from agents of the country’s Revolutionary Guard. Both of them were arrested at their home in November last year but Naimi was eventually released while Arabi continued to be held in solitary confinement for over two months.
In the beginning of December, Human Rights Watch urged Iran’s government to excuse Arabi and spare him his life but the country’s leaders decided to show no mercy.
“It is simply shocking that anyone should face the gallows simply because of Internet postings that are deemed to be crude, offensive, or insulting,” Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “Iran should urgently revise its penal code to eliminate provisions that criminalize peaceful free expression, especially when they punish its exercise with death.”
Amnesty International too, called upon the government to put a stay on Arabi’s hanging and free him immediately.
Iran has been very stringent about dealing with online dissent, as it recently stepped up its efforts to curb protestors. According to Reporters Without Borders, as many as 65 human rights activists, bloggers and journalists are in prison currently for what the government understands as rebellion or propaganda against the regime.
As reported by Atheist Republic in May, seven people were arrested for dancing to Pharrell Williams’ song Happy and publishing their video online. They went on to be sentenced to one year in jail and 91 lashes, after a criminal court ruled that they had violated Iran’s Islamic laws.
As if that incident did not stir enough controversy, two months later, eight Iranians were arrested and sentenced to a total of 127 years in jail after being found guilty of conspiring against the state and spreading propaganda against the regime, again via Facebook.
At that time, President Hassan Rouhani called for the relaxation of Iran’s strict restriction on social media and internet censorship, an act that apparently put him at odds with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is notorious for favouring such despotism.
Photo Credits: BGR