The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Initiative are calling on the government of Iran to immediately and unconditionally release journalist Issa Saharkhiz from the prison.
Read the statement below:
According to the information received, on September 17, 2016, Branch 28 of the Islamic Revolution Court notified Mr. Issa Saharkhiz’s lawyer of a reduction in his sentence to 21 months of imprisonment. On August 8, 2016, Judge Mohammad Moghisseh of Branch 28 had sentenced Mr. Saharkhiz to three years in prison on charges of “insulting the Leader” for having used the term “Casino Seyyed Ali” to describe a room in prison in his memoirs; and for “spreading propaganda against the State”. The Islamic Penal Code provides for a maximum of two years’ imprisonment for insulting the leader and a maximum penalty of one year for the second charge.
Mr. Saharkhiz was arrested on November 2, 2015 by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps’ intelligence unit during a wave of arrests, was accused of allegedly being a “member of a network of infiltrators within the country’s cyberspace and media who cooperate with hostile Western governments”,and was kept in pre-trial detention, mostly in solitary confinement, for several months.
Mr. Saharkhiz is facing charges and potential prison sentences in two other cases. One case has already been examined by the courts, and he was charged with “spreading false information.” The outcome of the trial is not clear yet, but if convicted he could face up to two additional years in prison. In the other case, which has not yet gone to court, he is charged with “insulting the head of the Judiciary and former President”.
The Observatory expresses concern regarding Mr. Saharkhiz’s health condition, as he notably suffers from a cancerous tumour in his adrenal glands, as well as heart problems. He has previously been deprived medical treatment in jail and was hospitalised in March 2016 after suffering a heart attack and going on hunger strike to protest against his prison conditions.
The Observatory recalls that Mr. Issa Saharkhiz has been continuously harassed by the authorities for several years. On July 3,2009, he was arrested and subsequently sentenced to three years’ imprisonment on charges of “insulting the leader” and “propaganda against the State”for publishing political commentaries critical of the widely disputed results of Iran’s 2009 presidential election. In a 2010 opinion, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that he had been arbitrarily deprived of his liberty and asked the Iranian government to take appropriate steps to remedy the situation. In August 2011, while serving his sentence, he was tried on “press-related charges” dating back to 11 years before, and sentenced to 1.5 additional years in prison. He was finally released on October 3, 2013, after spending more than four years in prison.
The Observatory firmly condemns the new sentence and ongoing persecution and judicial harassment against Mr. Issa Saharkhiz, as it is clearly aimed at sanctioning his legitimate human rights activities.
The Observatory urges the Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Issa Saharkhizand put an end to all acts of harassment against him.
Finally, until all charges are dropped against him, the Observatory urges the Iranian authorities to ensure that his conditions of detention are humane and that all judicial proceedings against him are carried out in full compliance with his right to a fair trial, as protected under international law.