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Hospitalized political prisoner and prominent reformist journalist Issa Saharkhiz began a hunger strike on October 2, 2016, to convince the authorities to grant him conditional release.

“My father is legally eligible for conditional release for medical reasons and has served more than half of his prison term. That’s why he has gone on a hunger strike,” his son, Mehdi Saharkhiz, told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

In a letter addressed to Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, dated October 1—one day before the beginning of the hunger strike, Issa Saharkhiz, who has been hospitalized for heart disease since March 9, 2016, wrote: “I have no choice but to go on a food and medical hunger strike because I qualify for conditional release under Articles 502 and 522 of the Criminal Code for serving more than half of my imposed sentence in prison and the hospital.”

Article 502 of Iran’s Criminal Code states: “If a prisoner is suffering from physical or mental illness and his imprisonment would make his illness worse or delay his recovery, the judge can postpone the sentence being served until the prisoner regains his health after consultation with his physician.”

Article 522 states: “… The time spent in the hospital for treatment is taken into account as part of the prisoner’s sentence.”

Mehdi Saharkhiz said the hunger strike would put extreme pressure on his ailing father. In his letter, Issa Saharkhiz said he would begin his hunger strike initially by refusing food and if, after 15 days, his request for conditional release was not accepted, also refuse to take his medications.

In September 2016, Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court reduced Saharkhiz’s sentence from three years in prison to 21 months. He had been charged with “propaganda against the state” and “insulting the supreme leader.”

Saharkhiz is also facing the charge of “insulting the judiciary chief and the president,” but it remains unclear how or when he would be put on another trial, his lawyer, Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaee, told the Campaign.

On November 2, 2015 Saharkhiz, three other journalists and the brother of an Iranian dissident journalist were all arrested during a wave of arrests by the Revolutionary Guards’ Intelligence Organization. They were accused of being part of a foreign-instigated “infiltration” plot to spread anti-Iranian propaganda. 

“The court insists my father insulted the supreme leader but [Ayatollah Seyyed Ali] Khamenei has often said that no one should be punished for saying or writing something critical of him,” said Mehdi Saharkhiz in an interview with the Campaign after the reduction of his father’s prison sentence.  

“According to the Islamic Republic’s Constitution, my father should be immediately released from prison because no citizen can be imprisoned for expressing his or her opinion,” he added. “My father has done nothing wrong; he only expressed his views.”