Jailed journalist Afarin Chitsaz began a hunger strike in protest against authorities’ decision to extend her jail sentence. Chitsaz, who worked for the government paper Iran, began her strike on September 2, 2017.
Chitsaz was arrested in November 2015 along with journalists Ehsan Mazandarani, Saman Safarzaei and Isa Saharkhiz. In March 2016, Judge Mohammad Moghiseh sentenced her to 10 years in prison, but an appeals court later reduced the sentence to two years. In July 2016 and earlier this year, authorities granted her medical leave from prison so that she could undergo knee surgery. But prison authorities decided to exclude that period of time from the overall number of days she has spent in prison — even though she was technically still in detention — and added three months to her sentence. Chitsaz insists the sentence is illegal, and her lawyer has filed a complaint.
The charges against Chitsaz include “assembly and conspiracy against national security” and “collaboration with hostile governments.” Authorities have also banned her from practicing journalism for two years, and some of Iran’s hardliners have subjected her to a smear campaign. They have repeatedly accused her of being part of an infiltration network, and also of having intimate relationships with members of President Rouhani’s cabinet.
According to the Center for Human Rights in Iran, the journalist’s mother, Maryam Azadpour, has also been given a prison sentence for speaking to the media about her daughter’s ordeal. She says her daughter had been badly treated while in prison, and been forced to confess to crimes she hasn’t committed.