Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned the Iranian judiciary’s “unrelenting persecution” of an Iranian photojournalist and activist who must serve two years of internal exile after being released earlier this week from nearly eight years in imprisonment.
On November 16, Soheil Arabi was released from prison, where he was mistreated and tortured, but he must now spend two years in the southern city of Borazjan, more than 1,000 kilometers from his Tehran home, the Paris-based media freedom watchdog said in a statement on November 17.
Iran, which is ranked 174th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index, “does not content itself with arresting and jailing its citizens arbitrarily but also gives them ‘complementary sentences’ in order to silence them forever,” said Reza Moini, the head of the group’s Iran-Afghanistan desk.
Arabi’s family condemned the additional sentence and claimed he had been imprisoned “illegally for 285 days.” His lawyer said these days should be discounted from the time he has to spend in internal exile.
Arabi, who was awarded the RSF Press Freedom Prize in the citizen-journalist category in 2017, was “the victim of arbitrary and illegal judicial and ‘disciplinary’ harassment for years,” according to the watchdog.
Arrested in Tehran in late 2013, the activist was successively sentenced to three years in prison, 30 lashes, and a heavy fine.
Arabi was convicted of “insulting the Prophet Muhammad” on Facebook and sentenced to death in 2014, but that sentence was overturned. The following year, he was finally sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison.
During his first months in detention, he was mistreated to try to make him confess to involvement in the creation of a Facebook network that posted blasphemous messages and spread information critical of the regime, RSF said.
It also said that Arabi “was moved from one prison to another, spent long periods in solitary confinement, and was even tortured and injured for becoming the mouthpiece of those inmates denouncing the appalling conditions” in prison.
Arabi’s mother, Farangis Mazloom, was notified last month that she will have to serve a one-year prison sentence for drawing the public’s attention to the inhuman and degrading treatment that her son was subjected to while behind bars.