Soheil Arabi Resumes Hunger Strike to Protest Harassment of His Family
Prisoner of conscience Soheil Arabi has restarted his hunger in Tehran’s Evin Prison to protest the persecution of his family by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
“I have forgiven all the injustices against myself but I can never stay silent in the face of your constant and unjust harassment against my family,” Arabi wrote in a letter from prison on August 24, a copy of which has been obtained by the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
“I will go on a hunger strike to demand all charges be dropped against my mother-in-law and my dearest wife Nastaran Naimi,” he added without giving details about the charges.
Arabi, 32, has been in prison since his arrest in November 2013 by the IRGC’s Sarallah Headquarters. He was initially sentenced to death for “insulting the Prophet” in comments he posted on Facebook that were critical of the Islamic Republic of Iran and some senior officials.
But upon appeal, the sentence was reduced 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.
The 32-year-old broke a hunger strike on August 7, 2017 after six days when his wife was released from IRGC detention to answer accusations regarding contacts with foreign media.
In his August 24 letter from Evin Prison, Arabi indicated that he is resuming his hunger strike after discovering that the IRGC was continuing to harass his wife and relatives.
“Our phones are tapped, [online] accounts are hacked, relatives are threatened and [my wife] Nastaran is interrogated and persecuted. Stop torturing and harassing my love. It is all my fault. Yes, I am to blame,” he wrote.
The prisoner of conscience was referring to the IRGC’s threats that speaking publicly about his case would not be tolerated, according to a source with knowledge about Arabi’s case who spoke to CHRI on the condition of anonymity.
“Since her release from detention, Arabi’s wife has not dared speak to anyone because she is being accused of contacting the media,” said the source. “The authorities are angry about these media contacts because they believe they caused the death sentence against him to be dropped.”
The source added: “The IRGC is holding a grudge against [Arabi] because he and his wife filed a complaint against two IRGC websites for publishing slander and lies. Since then, they have been constantly summoning Nastaran for questioning. Sometimes they make pledges to free Soheil and at other time they threaten to put her in prison as well. Their latest threat is that if any information leaks out about this case, she will be held responsible and her crime will be heavier. That’s why she has changed her phone number.”
Arabi’s legal counsel has been trying to combine three separate prison sentences against Arabi for his social media posts to make him eligible for conditional release.
“If these cases are combined, Soheil may be able to request conditional release from prison,” a legal expert told CHRI in August 2016.
Article 134 of Iran’s New Islamic Penal Code allows for only the longest sentence to be served in cases involving convictions on multiple charges.