Soheil Arabi

New Charges Seem Aimed at Avoiding Commutation of Sentence

In an arbitrary and illegal act, new charges that carry a death sentence and which do not allow a pardon were added and the death sentence of Facebook user Soheil Arabi was confirmed by the Supreme Court in Iran.

“In a surprising act, the charge of ‘corruption on earth’ which was not included in the indictment, was illegally added to the case in Branch 41 of the Supreme Court, and [Soheil Arabi’s] death sentence was confirmed and sent to the Enforcement Unit of the Judiciary [to carry out the death sentence],” a source told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

The source stated that on November 25, 2014, Arabi’s lawyers requested a stay of execution and a retrial for him. “Enforcement of the death sentence will be suspended over the next few days. Currently, his lawyers only hope to buy time and to delay the execution,” said the source.

“Regrettably, the charge of ‘corruption on earth’ cannot receive a pardon, according to [Iranian] law. Therefore, at this stage there is only room for hoping that the Judge in Branch 41 of the Supreme Court announces that this charge was added by mistake and to eliminate it, sending the case to a lateral court for review. Otherwise, Mr. Arabi will be executed.”

Soheil Arabi was arrested in November 2013, and was sentenced to death on charge of “insulting the Prophet” (sabb-al-nabi) by Branch 76 of Tehran Penal Court for his writings on Facebook. His lawyers had hoped, however, that the Supreme Court would dismiss the charges based on Article 263 of the Islamic Penal Code [which explicitly states that if a suspect claims in court that he said the insulting words in anger, in quoting someone, or by mistake, his death sentence will be converted to 74 lashes] and the defense provided by the suspect [which stated this claim], but he has now been sentenced to death for a second time on charges of “corruption on earth.”

When asked on what basis the charge of “corruption on earth” was added to Arabi’s case, the source told the Campaign, “It says in the case that because Mr. Arabi had several Facebook pages with different names, and that he repeatedly insulted the Prophet on these pages, his charges are no longer just ‘insulting the prophet.’ This means that if he had only one insulting Facebook page, his charge would have been ‘insulting the Prophet,’ but because he had multiple pages, his charge is ‘corruption on earth.’ Such a justification is legally faulty.”

“If the Supreme Court had determined that the charge of ‘corruption on earth’ should have been added to this case, they should have ordered the case to return to the court to inform the suspect of his new charges, instead of adding the charge outside of the indictment and issuing a verdict,” said the source.

Agents from the Revolutionary Guards Corps’ (IRGC) Sarallah Base arrested Soheil Arabi, 30, and his wife in November 2013. Arabi’s wife was released a few hours later, but he was kept in solitary confinement for two months inside IRGC’s Ward 2-A at Evin Prison, before he was transferred to Evin’s General Ward 350. Branch 76 of the Tehran Criminal Court, under Judge Khorasani, found Arabi guilty of “sabb al-nabi” (insulting the Prophet) on August 30, 2014.