Journalist Resumes Hunger Strike to Protest His Continued Detention
After two months of detention, the prominent reformist journalist and political activist Issa Saharkhiz has resumed his hunger strike, in protest against his ongoing detention at Evin Prison. Mehdi Saharkhiz, told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that his father’s wet hunger resumed on Wednesday, January 6, 2015.
“My father has been in temporary detention for more than two months. He should be released on bail or put on trial but nothing is happening. My father’s lawyer has made numerous requests to post bail but they have not agreed to it and are not saying why,” he said.
“My father has restarted a hunger strike to protest against this kind of treatment and his unclear status. He said if they don’t investigate his case in the next two weeks he’s then going to go into a dry hunger strike [refusing liquids, as well] and will also stop taking his pills.”
Issa Saharkhiz had been on a hunger strike for some 50 days, from the day of his arrest on November 1, 2015 until December 21, 2015. He stopped the strike only at the urging of several prominent religious and political figures, including the pro-reform Grand Ayatollah Saanei, former President Mohammad Khatami, and the prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh.
Mehdi Saharkhiz, who lives in the United States, told the Campaign that family members in Iran had twice visited his father in Evin Prison since his arrest. “He seemed in good spirits but physically weaker and thinner, especially after 50 days on a hunger strike.”
Issa Saharkhiz, who spent nearly five years in prison for his objections to the widely disputed result of Iran’s 2009 presidential elections, which resulted in the hardline Ahmadinejad presidency, has now been accused of “gathering and colluding against national security” and “insulting the Supreme Leader” in his writings after he was released from prison in October 2013, according to his son.
“There’s no proof for any of these charges. Since his release, my father has not been in any gathering, nor has he colluded against the state. This is a very strange accusation,” Mehdi Saharkhiz said.
In addition to Issa Saharkhiz, three other journalists were arrested on November 1, 2015, by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Intelligence Organization: Ehsan Mazandarani, Afarin Chitsaz and Saman Safarzaie, all of whom remain in detention.
A crackdown has been underway in Iran for many months, with journalists and reformist figures especially targeted by hardliners for arrest and prosecution under catch-all national security charges. The crackdown, which has also been directed at independent artistic and cultural figures, has intensified as the country approaches critical Parliamentary elections in February 2016.