Iranian blogger found guilty of insulting Prophet Mohammad on Facebook sentenced to death

Soheil Arabi says he was in ‘poor psychological condition’ and wrote the insulting Facebook posts 'without thinking'

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The Independent Online

A blogger in ‘poor psychological condition’ has been sentenced to death after being found guilty of insulting the Prophet Mohammad on Facebook.

According to an ‘informed source’, speaking to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Soheil Arabi, 30, had kept eight Facebook pages under different names and admitted to posting material insulting to the Prophet on these pages.

Mr Arabi, who was arrested along with his wife in November last year by agents from the Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), is said to have written the “material without thinking and in poor psychological condition”.

Branch 75 of Tehran’s Criminal Court, under Judge Khorasani, found Mr Arabi guilty of insulting the Prophet, or “sabb al-nabi”, on 30 August.

Article 262 of the Islamic Penal Code states insulting the Prophet carries a punishment of death, however, article 264 of the Penal Code says if a suspect claims to have said the insulting words in anger, in quoting someone, or by mistake, his death sentence will be converted to 74 lashes. 

The anonymous source claims: “Unfortunately, despite this Article and the explanations provided, the judges issued the death sentence.

“They didn’t even take any notice of Soheil’s statements in court in which he repeated several times that he wrote the posts under poor [psychological] conditions, and that he is remorseful.”

Speaking to The Independent, Islamic legal expert Mohammad Nayyeri said: "The problem in the current case [of Mr Arabi] is that when he claimed he was not thinking when he used such words against the Prophet, he had already confessed during the interrogations.

"He later claimed that his confession were all under coercion from his interrogators and that he did not mean it when he used the swear words against the Prophet, but the court refused this claim and with a 2:1 majority sentenced him to death."

He continued: "This raises another issue in Iranian judicial system that the accused may be detained and denied any access to legal counsel until the interrogations are over which may take months. They may also experience unbearable pressure, in some cases torture, from their interrogators to confess to their crimes."

Although Mr Arabi’s wife was released a few hours after the couples’ arrest in November, Mr Arabi was kept in  solitary confinement for two months inside IRGC’s Ward 2-A at Evin Prison, before he was transferred to Evin’s General Ward 350. 

“The way he was arrested was illegal. It is not clear how the agents were able to enter their home at that time in the morning. All the doors were locked and family members were asleep. Agents entered his home and bedroom.

“He and his wife were arrested and some of their photographs and personal belongings were taken after their home was searched,” the source also alleges.

Mr Arabi will be able to appeal against the decision until 20 September.

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