The Iranian journalist and blogger Pourheydar was arrested in Tehran on January 4, 2015, about a month after he returned to Iran from the U.S., where he was living.
Pourheydar has written for numerous reformist outlets, including the dailies Hambastegi, Mardomsalari, and Sobh-e Emrooz and online website Radio Zamaneh, and has given interviews to foreign-based media, including BBC Persian, Voice of America, and Radio Farda, in which he is referred to as a journalist.
After Iran’s contested presidential election in 2009, Pourheydar was arrested twice. In 2010, the Tehran Revolutionary Court sentenced him to a five-year suspended prison term for “assembly and collusion with the intent to commit crimes against national security,” according to reports.
In December 2010, Pourheydar left Iran and migrated to the U.S. In May 2011, he gave an interview with the Center for Human Rights in Iran about abuse and torture that he had undergone and witnessed as an imprisoned journalist in Iran. He also recorded testimony for the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center in which he described the pressures he and other Iranian journalists faced, preventing them from reporting to the outside world what was taking place in the country.
Pourheydar returned to Iran in late 2014 and was arrested on January 4, 2015. He was charged with “propagating against the state,” “insulting the supreme leader,” and “publishing falsehood in cyber space.” On August 3, 2015, the Tehran Revolutionary Court sentenced Pourheydar to five years in prison.
Iranian authorities have not revealed what alleged wrongdoing led to Pourheydar’s arrest and conviction. However, Firouzeh Ramezanzade, his former wife, told CPJ she believes the charges stem from the interviews he gave to human rights organizations and Persian media in which he criticized the Iranian government.
The group Journalism Is Not a Crime, which reports on freedom of the press in Iran, on April 16, 2016, published a photograph of Pourheydar with his lips sewn shut. The organization reported that Pourheydar had begun a hunger strike to protest his transfer to Rajaee Shahr prison, authorities’ refusal to set bail, and the lack of clarity in his legal case.
On April 27, the London-based Manoto TV reported that Pourheydar’s cellmates were worried about the decline in his health.
In August 2017, Amnesty International reported that several political prisoners detained in Rajaee Shahr Prison, including Pourheydar, went on hunger strike for a month to protest inhumane prison conditions. Authorities denied Pourheydar and the other prisoners’ medical care when they developed gastrointestinal disorders as a result of the protest, the Center for Human Rights on Iran reported.
Pourheydar also has heart disease that requires regular medication. Human Rights Activist News Agency, an opposition news agency that covers rights issues, cited an unnamed source who is familiar with inmates on the same ward as Pourheydar as saying that prison authorities were jeopardizing the journalist’s health by not providing him with his heart medication.
Pourheydar was first held at Evin Prison and later transferred to Rajaee Shahr prison.
In June 2017, an Iranian court reduced Pourheydar’s sentence to three years on appeal, according to Journalism in Not a Crime. He is due to be released in February 2018.