On the occasion of the lifting of the death penalty handed down to Iranian photographer and blogger Soheil Arabi, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy at the Federal Foreign Office Christoph Strässer issued the following statement on 29 June:
I am pleased about the decision of the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Tehran to lift the death penalty handed down to Soheil Arabi. This is an initial step in the right direction.
Nevertheless, along with many other journalists and bloggers, Soheil Arabi is still being imprisoned in Iran for having peacefully exercised his right to express his opinion. Many of these people have been given years-long prison sentences whilst numerous others, arrested only recently, are still awaiting trial.
I call on the Iranian judiciary to respect the freedom of the press and right to freedom of opinion and to release all those who have been arrested or condemned simply for having exercised this right.
30-year-old Soheil Arabi, a photographer, was arrested in November 2013 for posting critical comments on Facebook. On 30 August 2014, the Tehran criminal court sentenced him to death for “insulting the Prophet”. In another trial on 3 September 2014, he was allegedly given a three-year prison sentence by the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Tehran for his Facebook postings which “insulted the religious leaders” and were “propaganda against the regime”. The Supreme Court upheld the death sentence on 24 November 2014. The case provoked international criticism when it came to light that his sentence had been transmitted to the law enforcement agencies for the death penalty to be executed.
Reporters without Borders’ latest World Press Freedom Index ranks Iran 173rd of 180 countries. In May 2015, 16 journalists and 27 online activists and bloggers are said to have been incarcerated.