Saharkhiz Held for Additional 18 Months Despite Severe Medical Condition
Upon completion of his three-year prison term, journalist Issa Saharkhiz has been sentenced to an additional 1.5 years in prison, despite a medical commission’s determination that he is unable to endure his punishment. “They don’t want my father released, so they put him on trial again,” his son, Mehdi Saharkhiz, told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
In March 2012, Issa Saharkhiz was transferred to a hospital from Rajaee Shahr Prison when he suffered a heart attack. He has remained in hospital since then. It is not clear whether Saharkhiz will serve his new sentence in prison or on his hospital bed. “My father’s sentence was ending, and they wanted to keep him there longer, so they re-activated an 11-year old case from the time he was the license holder for Akhbar-e Eghtesadi Newspaper. He had appeared in the initial court for this case six years ago. He was sentenced to two years in prison for the charges raised against him in that case. The appeals court reduced his sentence to 1.5 years,” Mehdi Saharkhiz told the Campaign. “According to Iran’s Penal Code, when a prisoner serves 1/3 of his sentence, he must be released. Especially considering my father’s physical state and the doctors’ determination that he cannot carry out his punishment, according to the law he should have been released from prison after serving his three-year term,” he added.
Mehdi Saharkhiz told the Campaign that his family has had to pay for the high hospital costs during his father’s hospitalization. “It’s not just the costs of the hospital stay and his treatment. My family has also been forced to pay for the costs of three meals per day for his three guards as well as their other expenses. In fact they forced my family to pay this cost in order to put pressure on us. For the past four months, my family has paid [around] $2,000 per month for the hospital costs as well as the soldiers who are watching my father. My family’s income is not even 1/5 of this amount,” he added. “The Prisons Organization has been involved in a large embezzlement the news of which has been spreading inside the prison for months. Over the past few months, in order to pay such expenses, the prisoners have been made responsible for funding them. This is why my family has to pay for the additional costs,” Mehdi Saharkhiz claimed.
Issa Saharkhiz, a journalist and political activist, was arrested on 3 July 2009. He was later sentenced to three years in prison on charges of “insulting the Supreme Leader” and “propagating against the regime.” Saharkhiz was sentenced to an additional 2 years on 5 August 2011. His new sentence was related to charges raised against him when he was the licensee for Akhbar-e Eghtesadi Newspaper in 2000, the same year the newspaper was banned. Six years after the ban, the first trial session of Issa Saharkhiz as licensee for the newspaper was held on 15 June 2006 on charges of “publishing untruths,” “insulting the holy Islam,” “libel,” “publishing falsehoods,” “propagating against the regime,” and “insulting state authorities.” But the case was kept dormant until June 2011 when another court session was held after six years. Saharkhiz was sentenced to two years in prison, a sentence that was later reduced to 1.5 years at appeal stage.