Prominent Reformist Journalist Arrested for “Insulting Supreme Leader”
The political journalist Issa Saharkhiz has been arrested on charges of “intending to disrupt national security,” “propaganda against the state,” and “insulting the Supreme Leader,” according to his son Mehdi.
Mehdi Saharkhiz told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that agents of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards took away his father to an unknown location on the morning of November 1, 2015.
The arrest takes place within the context of an intensifying crackdown by hardliners against reformists in Iran. The backlash began after the centrist Rouhani was elected to the presidency by a wide margin in 2013 but has increased significantly since the Rouhani administration signed the nuclear deal with world powers in July 2015.
“Six males and one female agent from the Revolutionary Guards entered our home with a warrant at 7:00 in the morning. They searched the whole house and took away my father with his personal belongings, including a photograph of [the former presidential candidate under house arrest for the last four years] Mir Hossein Mousavi. They didn’t say where they were taking him,” Mehdi Saharkhiz said.
Mehdi added that his father told the family before being taken away that he was going on a wet hunger strike immediately but if he was not released in two weeks he would start a dry hunger strike (refusing food and water).
Issa Saharkhiz, whose earlier political commentaries landed him in prison for five years (he was released in 2013), suffers from heart disease, among other ailments, which required hospitalization during his time in prison.
Since his release he has been giving interviews to the media and expressing his views on Iranian political affairs on his Facebook page. But he has not broken any laws, his son insisted.
“Ali Khamenei has a personal vendetta against those who criticize him. My father is one of those who has frankly criticized him,” Mehdi Saharkhiz told the Campaign.
Issa Saharkhiz was previously arrested on July 3, 2009, during the political upheavals after the disputed presidential election that year. He was sentenced to three years in prison and five years banishment from political and journalistic activities by Judge Salavati of Branch 15 of the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Tehran for “insulting the Supreme Leader,” and “propaganda against the state.” He received an additional two-year prison sentence on August 5, 2011, for his journalistic activities prior to 2009. He was released on October 3, 2013, just two months before the end of his prison term.