Iran Sentences 21-Year-Old to Death for ‘Insulting the Prophet’ Online

Sina Dehghan was 19 years old when the Iranian Revolutionary Guards arrested him at a military barracks in Tehran where he was a conscript on guard duty in October 2015. He and two co-defendants were charged with “posting anti-Islamic content on social media,” according to the Center for Human Rights in Iran.

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More specifically, the trio was charged with “insulting the Prophet” and “insulting the Supreme Leader of Iran” with text messages, per the UK Daily Mail. Evidently, insulting the Supreme Leader only gets you 16 months in jail but insulting Mohammed is a capital offense. The Center for Human Rights in Iran notes that if a person accused of insulting Mohammed claims his words were due to “anger” or a “mistake,” the court can reduce the sentence to 74 lashes instead of death.

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Dehghan was sentenced to death, even though the CHRI says he was told he would receive a pardon if he confessed to his “crimes” and repented of his actions. The Center notes he only had four days remaining in his military service at the time of his arrest.

A source told the CHRI:

Security and judicial authorities promised Sina’s family that if they didn’t make any noise about his case, he would have a better chance of being freed, and that talking about it to the media would work against him. Unfortunately, the family believed those words and stopped sharing information about his case and discouraged others from sharing it as well.

One of his co-defendants was given a seven-year prison sentence reduced to three years on appeal, while the other, Mohammad Nouri, has also been sentenced to death.

According to the UK Independent, the exact content of the messages sent by the three defendants on the Line messaging application has not been made public.

Dehghan has been held in the notorious Arak prison where a source told the CHRI he is “suffering from depression and often cries.” The source also said Dehghan is “held in a ward with drug convicts and murderers who broke his jaw a while ago.”

He is running out of options to escape the death sentence, which was upheld by the Iranian Supreme Court in January. In an interview on March 28th, Dehghan’s lawyer said a request for judicial review of his sentence has been filed.

“According to Sina’s lawyer, steps have been taken for a judicial review, and with the good news we’re hearing from him, God willing this case will come to end positively as soon as possible,” said Dehghan’s mother.

However, another human-rights organization called Article 19 has complained Dehghan’s court-appointed lawyer “failed to adequately defend him” at trial.

Article 19 said the case demonstrates how Iranians are “at the mercy of a system where forced confessions, false promises, and threats to family members undermine not only national judicial processes but the international standards Iran has signed up to.”