Ailing Political Prisoner Issa Saharkhiz on Hunger Strike Against Additional Six-Month Sentence
Imprisoned political commentator Issa Saharkhiz began a wet hunger strike on January 14, 2017 to protest a newly issued six-month prison sentence for allegedly “slandering the supreme leader.” Saharkhiz is also attempting to highlight the “repeated violations of the law by the Judiciary and security officials,” said his son, Mehdi Saharkhiz.
“My father has announced that if the officials don’t respond, in two weeks (January 28) he will stop taking his medications, and if the situation continues after four weeks, he will stop drinking liquids as well,” Mehdi Saharkhiz told the Campaign for Human Rights in Iran on January 16.
Issa Saharkhiz, previously due to be released in June 2017, began the hunger strike at the Imam Khomeini Hospital in Tehran where he has been receiving treatment for heart disease since March 9, 2016. Prior to his hospitalization he was being detained at Evin Prison in Tehran, where he “was often locked up in a solitary cell,” he wrote in a letter.
He has also gone on hunger strike to protest the authorities’ refusal to grant him medical leave and treatment at home.
“Based on the doctors’ recommendations, my father should have been released and gone home to recover a long time ago,” added Mehdi Saharkhiz. “But the Tehran Prosecutor [Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi] has refused to allow this despite the recommendation of the official Medical Examiner’s Commission.”
“The new, six-month sentence against my father was issued about two weeks ago (January 2),” said Mehdi Saharkhiz, who lives in the U.S. “I don’t know if my father was present in court, but the case was decided by Branch 1058 of the Criminal Court.”
“In his defense, my father noted that the accusations against him were based on statements he made in good faith,” he added. “His religious duty compelled him to tell officials not to do wrong things. His criticisms were honest and he did not intend to slander [the supreme leader].”
In September 2016, Mehdi Saharkhiz told the Campaign that his father was charged with “insulting the supreme leader” for referring in his memoirs to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei as “Casino Seyyed Ali.”
Issa Saharkhiz’s attorney Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaee will file an appeal against the new sentence within the 20-day time limit and is optimistic about an acquittal, added his son.
Arrested on November 2, 2015 during a crackdown by the Revolutionary Guards Intelligence Organization, the veteran reformist journalist was sentenced to two years in prison for “insulting the supreme Leader” and one year in prison for “propaganda against the state,” said Tabatabaee in August 2016.
The sentence was reduced to 21 months in prison after the court agreed to apply Article 134 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code to his case. In cases involving convictions on multiple charges, Article 134 allows for only the longest sentence to be served.