Iranian blogger Hossein Ronaghi Maleki is back behind bars | Middle East| News and analysis of events in the Arab world | DW | 22.01.2016
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Iranian blogger Hossein Ronaghi Maleki is back behind bars

Hossein Ronaghi Maleki, an Iranian citizen journalist and founder of anti-censorship group "Iran Proxy," is back in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran. His health situation is critical.

Arrested in December 2009, following unrest after Iran's disputed presidential elections, Hossein Ronaghi Maleki was sent directly to Evin prison, where spent more than 10 months in solitary confinement.

Ronaghi was arrested for being a member of the Internet group "Iran Proxy," which ran websites helping Iranian users circumvent online censorship. He was also charged with spreading propaganda against the regime and insulting both Iran's supreme leader and the president. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison for all offenses.

Ronaghi's health deteriorated drastically inside Evin prison. He went through several kidney operations and was granted medical parole in June 2015. Two months later, he tweeted from the hospital, describing his medical visits in a separate blog post:

"With my left kidney non-functioning, physicians have stressed that it is imperative for my right kidney to be protected from any further damage by supplying the necessary treatments and medical follow-ups. I have to endure constant kidney pain, burning and frequent urination due to my kidney disease."

Physical illness, psychological torture

A few months after his parole, however, Ronaghi was recalled to prison. After receiving the notification, he posted an image of himself to his Instagram account and wrote:

"They say, 'We used to count the days until your freedom, but now it seems we have to cross off the days until your imprisonment.' In 7 days I must return to prison, but not with my own feet."

The letter from Iran's judiciary threatened to confiscate the bail collateral of 500,000 euros if he failed to return to prison.

Ronaghi posted the document to social media, writing:

"Based on article 502 of the Islamic Penal Code, I can be kept out of prison due to my physical condition. The Prison Association physicians have also expressed that keeping a prisoner with my condition behind bars is unsafe and very dangerous."

"He's in very bad health, and he worries a lot about his parents "said Madyar Samienejad, an Iranian human rights activist and friend of Ronaghi's.

Samienejad told DW that he and Ronaghi are regularly in touch and that he talked to Ronaghi on the phone shortly before he went back to Evin prison in Tehran.

Ronaghi's parents live in the small city of Malekan, close to Tebriz, in a northwestern province of Azerbaijan. It's an eight hour journey in each direction for Ronaghi's parents to regularly to visit their son in prison.

"It's a lot of physical and psychological pressure for Hossein's parents," Samienejad said. "His parents suffer a lot seeing him getting weaker in prison - and he, in return, worries a lot about them."

Samienejad himself was arrested in 2005, during which time the Iranian authorities interrogated him about Ronaghi's whereabouts.

Ironically, this is what caused him to pay attention to Ronaghi in the first place. Afterwards, the two developed a friendship.

Not in the interest of the Islamic Republic

Although Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian and four other Americans were released just one day after The United States and Iran entered a new era of international relations, there were no similar measures extended to Iran's own political prisoners.

"The public prosecutor in Tehran announced the prisoners swap was done in the 'interest of the Islamic Republic," Samienejad says, adding that "cases like Ronaghi's are obviously not in the interest of the regime in Iran."

Others have taken notice, however. The the branch of Amnesty International specializing on Iran has published a call to urgent action:

Amnesty International is the human rights organization that's been spearheading a campaign on behalf of jailed Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi.

Meanwhile, Hossein Ronaghi has not updated his social media accounts since his final post on January 19.

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