Iran threatens to execute a photographer for Facebook posts

Iran threatens to execute a photographer for Facebook posts
Human Rights Watch and other groups have called on Iran not to carry out a death sentence on a man convicted of insulting the Prophet of Islam in postings on the social media site, Facebook.
3 min read
26 January, 2015
Iran, along with Saudi Arabia and Iraq, are prolific users of the death penalty. [Getty]

An Iranian man is facing the death penalty for “insulting the Prophet”.  Soheil Arabi has had his sentence upheld by Iran’s Supreme Court. He was sentenced for posts deemed offensive to the Prophet he had made on Facebook.

Photogrpaher Soheil Arabi, 30, was sentenced to death on 30 August 2014 for “insulting the Prophet of Islam”  by a five-judge panel of Branch 76 of the Criminal Court of Tehran.

The charge stems from postings Soheil Arabi made on eight Facebook accounts, which the authorities say belong to him.

The Supreme Court upheld the sentence on 24 November.

In a separate case stemming from the same Facebook posts, Soheil Arabi was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for “spreading propaganda against the system” and “insulting the leader”, by a Tehran Revolutionary Court on 4 September.

Soheil Arabi was arrested in November 2013 by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in his home in Tehran, and spent two months in solitary confinement in section 2A of Evin Prison, which is under the control of the IRGC.

During interrogation, he was pressured into making a “confession”. He was later transferred to Section 350 of the Prison, which is under the control of the Judiciary.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have called on the authorities not to carry out the death sentence and to declare a moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolishing the death penalty.

The rights groups have also called for the release Soheil Arabi if he is being held solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression and urged Tehran to uphold their obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to respect the right to freedom of expression. As a state party to the ICCPR, Iran is obliged to respect, protect and fulfil the rights contained in the treaty, Amnesty stressed.

The UN Human Rights Committee criticizes laws prohibiting blasphemy or lack of respect for religious systems, stating that “it would be impermissible for any such laws to discriminate in favour of or against one or certain religions or belief systems, or their adherents over another, or religious believers over non-believers. Nor would it be permissible for such prohibitions to be used to prevent or punish criticism of religious leaders or commentary on religious doctrine and tenets of faith.” 

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch both oppose the death penalty unconditionally because it is ‘the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and a violation of the right to life’ as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Iran continues to be one of the world’s most prolific executing states. According to Amnesty International’s Death Sentences and Executions 2013 report, Iranian officials acknowledged the execution of at least 369 people in 2013, while reliable sources reported at least 335 additional executions. Reports indicate that at least 11 of those executed may have been under the age of 18 at the time of their alleged crimes.