Man Imprisoned for Facebook Posts Seeks Reduced Sentence
Soheil Arabi, whose death sentence for “insulting the prophet” was struck down by Iran’s Supreme Court in 2015 but remains imprisoned for posting comments critical of the Islamic Republic on social media, is seeking a reduced prison term.
A source told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that although the death sentence against Soheil Arabi was lifted, three separate courts have sentenced him to prison for his Facebook posts. Arabi’s family and lawyer are hoping that his prison sentences will be combined so he can become eligible for conditional release.
“If these cases are combined, Soheil may be able to request conditional release from prison,” added the source. Article 134 of Iran’s New Islamic Penal Code allows for only the longest sentence to be served in cases that involve convictions on multiple charges.
Arabi has also been repeatedly denied furlough (temporary leave) since his arrest in November 2013, according to the source.
His wife, Nastaran Naimi, wrote on her Facebook page on July 26, 2016 that after nearly a year of seeking approval from the Judiciary for her husband’s furlough so he could be with their son on his seventh birthday, she ultimately couldn’t afford the high bail amount required for his temporary release.
“For ten months we went from the court to the prosecutor’s office, from the prosecutor’s office to the Sentence Enforcement Unit, from the Sentence Enforcement Unit to Evin [Prison]…how could we afford a bail of 700 million tomans ($225,000 USD)? It didn’t happen. It wasn’t possible to see our child laugh with joy at his birthday after three years.”
Most Iranian prisoners are allowed to apply for and receive furlough, but it is not a guaranteed right and Iranian law specifically forbids granting furlough to some classes of prisoners, especially political prisoners imprisoned under catch-all “national security” related charges.
On November 7, 2013 Arabi was arrested by the Sarallah Headquarters of the Revolutionary Guards and sentenced to death for “insulting the Prophet.” Branch 24 of the Supreme Court struck down the death sentence and sent the case back to a lower court, which removed the charge of “insulting the Prophet” and sentenced him to seven and a half years in prison, two years of religious studies (to prove his repentance), and a two-year ban from traveling abroad.
“Mr. Arabi must read 13 books on theology and religious awareness for two years and prepare summaries for each one to clear his doubts. He must also be in contact with the True Path Institute as well as the Imam Khomeini Research Center and present his questions. Every month he will present to the court the questions, answers and book summaries,” a source told the Campaign at the time.
Arabi had stated in court that he was “not in a suitable state of mind” when he wrote some of his posts. Based on Article 263 of Iran’s New Islamic Penal Code, a death sentence against a person condemned for Sāb ul-nabi (“insulting the Prophet”) can be reduced if he or she “claims that his or her statements were made under coercion or by mistake, or in a state of drunkenness, or anger, or slip of the tongue, or without paying attention to the meaning of the words, or quoting someone else…”
In May 2014, Branch 10 of the Court for Government Employees sentenced Arabi to 30 lashes and fined him five million rials ($161 USD) for insulting Tehran’s Friday prayer leader Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati and Member of Parliament Gholamali Haddad Adel on Facebook.
In September 2014 Judge Abolqasem Salavati of Branch 152 of the Revolutionary Court sentenced Arabi to three years in prison for “insulting the supreme Leader,” and “propaganda against the state.” The sentence was later upheld by the Appeals Court.