Cleric and blogger.
Acting against national security
Cooperating with hostile governments
Insulting Ayatollah Khomeini
insulting the clergy
Spreading propaganda against the holy Islamic Republic
Date of Birth
“The Special Clerics Court had previously sentenced me to a lifelong defrocking. I told them that I was given the clerical robe by religious leaders and not by the regime. Therefore, if the religious leaders asked me to, I would defrock but they couldn’t take it away.”
Cleric Arash Honarvar Shojaei, 34, was arrested on October 28, 2010 after security agents raided his father’s house and broke the door down. His father died while he was in solitary confinement. While in solitary, Shojaei was abused and harshly interrogated, and consequently developed epilepsy and suffered a stroke.
Despite his condition deteriorating, he told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, “Despite the Medical Examiner confirming my inability to remain in prison [due to health conditions], they kept me in jail and refused to review the medical report.” In protest of repeated refusals to grant him medical leave, he went on several hunger strikes.
Shojaei went on trial for two cases. In the first one he was tried on charges of spying, propaganda against the regime, activities against national security and showing a lack of respect for the clergy, which meant he was sentenced to four years in prison, 50 lashes, a $800 cash fine and a lifelong ban on being a cleric. His second case was tried at the Special Clergy Court for charges of propaganda against the regime for participating in the campaign “No to Forced Hejab”, for insulting Ayatollah Khomeini in an interview with clerical website Rasam and for ignoring his defrocking conviction. For this he was sentenced to a year and three months in prison.
“Last year, I did an interview about the 1953 coup with the Nationalist-Religious website and the Rasam website, which belongs to the traditional clerics of Iran.” The coup overthrew the nationalist Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh, Shojaei said. “They asked me about Ayatollah Khomeini’s behavior during that timeframe, and I gave my opinion, which was that Ayatollah Khomeini acted in a populist fashion and that offended them. They thought ‘populist’ was a foreign profanity. Of course, others had made the argument previously… but I guess they didn’t expect as a cleric that I would say such things, and they took it as an insult. The Intelligence Ministry wrote a very disorganized report on this that included several different points. In a part of the report, they wrote that because I had gone on a few furloughs, I had become emboldened and established questionable relations with certain religious leaders and jurists, and that in the end I had insulted Ayatollah Khomeini.”
“The Special Clerics Court had previously sentenced me to a lifelong defrocking,” he told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. “I told them that I was given the clerical robe by religious leaders and not by the regime. Therefore, if the religious leaders asked me to, I would defrock but they couldn’t take it away. When I was granted a furlough last year, I went to Qom wearing the clerical robe and religious leaders didn’t have a problem with it but the court sentenced me to an additional three months in prison for violating my defrocking sentence.”
Arash Shojaei is currently being held at the Special Clerics Ward (Ward 325) at Evin Prison. According to recent reports, he is in poor physical shape and on hunger strike. A Special Clergy court representative visited him at the prison clinic and suggested he serve the rest of his sentence under house arrest rather than in prison. Shojaei is nearing the end of his first prison sentence but still needs to serve the second one. According to the official Medical Examiner’s report, he is unable to serve his remaining time in prison.