Iran activist ends 71-day prison hunger strike as wife freed

Arash Sadeghi is serving 15 years for ‘spreading propaganda’; his spouse faces 6 years behind bars for unpublished fiction story featuring burning of a Quran

Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee and husband Arash Sadeghi (Facebook photo)
Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee and husband Arash Sadeghi (Facebook photo)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — An imprisoned Iranian human rights activist ended a 71-day hunger strike Tuesday as his detained wife won a temporary release from prison, a day after his case sparked a rare unauthorized protest in Tehran.

Arash Sadeghi was to be taken to a hospital, his lawyer Amir Raisian said, while Amnesty International said he would be fed intravenously. His wife, Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee, was temporarily freed for several days in a decision that can be extended, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported.

The sudden decision comes after a dayslong social media campaign and the march Monday toward Evin prison by dozens of Iranians. Such protests have been rare in Iran after violence that followed the country’s disputed 2009 presidential election.

Reformist lawmaker Bahram Parsai said earlier that he and other legislators met with court officials to discuss Sadeghi’s case, signaling the growing concern officials had over the campaign.

“It was supposed to solve the case resorting to prudence, in a way that would not be misused by enemies,” Parsai said, according to the semi-official ILNA news agency. “We do not want such cases to turn into a problem for the system,” he said, apparently referring to Western criticism of Iran’s human rights record.

Sadeghi is serving a 15-year sentence over charges including “spreading propaganda against the system” and “insulting the founder of the Islamic Republic,” according to Amnesty. The London-based advocacy group has said Sadeghi’s charges stem in part from his communication with them.

Sadeghi’s hunger strike began October 24 after authorities arrested his wife to make her serve a six-year sentence over an unpublished fictional story found in her home about a woman burning a Quran in anger over another woman being stoned to death for adultery.

“The release of Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee today comes as a welcome relief but is long overdue,” Amnesty researcher Nassim Papayianni said in a statement. “Neither she nor her husband, Arash Sadeghi, should have ever been forced to spend a single minute behind bars.”

Dual nationals, artists, poets, journalists, fashion models and activists have been arrested in a crackdown on expression led by hard-liners who oppose President Hassan Rouhani’s more moderate policies and efforts to promote greater openness to the outside world. The arrests accelerated with Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

Other prisoners are believed to be on hunger strikes as well.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her daughter Gabriella (AFP)
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her daughter Gabriella (AFP)

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman sentenced to five years in prison over charges she planned to topple Iran’s government while on vacation with her young daughter, ended a five-day hunger strike after being put back into general population following weeks of solitary confinement, said her husband, Richard Ratcliffe. She is scheduled to appear at an appeals court hearing Wednesday, he said.

Nizar Zakka , a US permanent resident from Lebanon sentenced to 10 years in prison and a $4.2 million fine, began a hunger strike December 8, Washington-based lawyer Jason Poblete said. As of a week ago, Zakka was still on it, he said.

“The Iranians have cut off our communications with Nizar because, it appears, they are upset with the media coverage of his hunger strike,” Poblete told The Associated Press.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.

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