New Hope for Revocation of Death Sentence for Insulting Prophet on Facebook
A Supreme Court branch reviewing the appeal request in the case of Soheil Arabi, a man convicted of “sabb al-nabi” (insulting the Prophet) and sentenced to death, will soon announce its ruling, a source told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
“The Judge in Branch 41 of the Supreme Court seems to concur with the defense presented by the lawyers. The lawyers believe that Branch 76 has issued a death sentence in error, and now the only way out of this ruling is for it to be overruled at appeals level,” 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. Arabi had eight Facebook pages under different names, and he was charged with insulting the Imams and the Prophet based on content he posted on those Facebook pages. Branch 76 of the Tehran Criminal Court, under Judge Khorasani, found Arabi guilty of “sabb al-nabi” (insulting the Prophet), on August 30, 2014.
This source had previously told the Campaign that the Tehran Penal Court issued its ruling without regard for Article 264 of the Islamic Penal Code. “Article 262 of the Islamic Penal Code states that if a person insults the Prophet of Islam, his punishment is death. But in Article 264, it explicitly says that if a suspect merely 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. I would like to emphasize that if only the suspect claims this, he will not be eligible for death, and there is no need to even prove his claim,” added the source.
“Throughout the trial, Soheil stated repeatedly that he wrote the material without thinking and in poor psychological condition, but, unfortunately, despite this Article and the explanations provided, the judges issued the death sentence. They didn’t even take any notice of Soheil’s statements in court in which he repeated several times that he wrote the posts under poor [psychological] conditions, and that he is remorseful. Three of the judges ruled for the death sentence, and two ruled for imprisonment,” said the source.
“In a similar case, the case of insulting Imam Naghi on Facebook, a parallel court did not sentence the suspects to death, but to 74 lashes,” the source told the Campaign.” We hope that the Supreme Court will overrule Soheil’s death sentence,” he added.
According to the source, Soheil Arabi has two additional judicial cases, the rulings for which are now final. On September 4, 2014, Branch 15 of Tehran Revolutionary Court under Judge Salavati sentenced Arabi to the maximum punishment of three years in prison on charges of “insulting the Supreme Leader” and “propaganda against the state,” through his writings on Facebook. In another case, the Special Government Employees’ Court sentenced Arabi to 500,000 toman in fines (approximately $150), and 30 lashes. Both rulings were upheld in full at the appeals stage.