Iranian Blogger Struggles for Health and Freedom After 18 Days on Hunger Strike

Jailed anti-censorship activist and blogger Hossein Ronaghi Maleki is struggling for his health and freedom. He began a hunger strike March 26, to protest prison authorities’ refusal to give him proper medical care and demand his release. His health now is deteriorating rapidly.

According to a correspondence between Maleki's father and the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI), authorities “have threatened him that if his family makes noise about his case he will be transferred to Rajaee Shahr Prison,” located in the northern city of Karaj. Rajaee Shahr is known for its poor conditions, particularly for political prisoners. Previous reports suggest that in-person visits would be limited there, if not impossible.

This Thursday, April 14 will mark Maleki's 20th day on a hunger strike. Supporters are calling on the global community of activists and technologists who stand up for freedom of expression and access to information to raise their voices on Maleki's behalf using the hashtag #NoJail4Hossein.

Maleki blogged under the nickname Babak Khorramdin, the name of an ancient Persian freedom fighter from Azerbaijan (Maleki is an ethnic Iranian Azeri). He is also a computer programmer who worked actively in setting up websites aimed at circumventing online censorship.

The networks of international actors working on Internet freedom and building innovative ways for Iranians to access the Internet is vast. Maleki is very much a part of this community, but unlike many of his fellow activists, his work landed him directly in the line of fire.

Maleki was arrested in December 2009, six months after Iran's disputed presidential elections. He was immediately incarcerated at the notorious Evin prison, serving 376 days in solitary confinement before seeing trial in 2010. This led to a 15-year sentence on charges of “spreading propaganda against the regime”, “membership of the Internet group Iran Proxy” and “insulting the Iranian supreme leader and the president.”

Maleki was released in 2015 on a temporary six-month furlough to receive medical treatment for kidney failure, but returned to prison on January 19, 2016. His return to prison came despite recommendations by the Medical Examiner that his health is unfit for the Iranian prison system. The denial of medical care is a routine practice for political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.

Global Voices’ Advox and Iran teams are encouraging supporters to give as much exposure as possible to Maleki by sharing his case on social media, and using the hashtags #NoJail4Hossein. Appeals can also be sent tagging the President Hassan Rouhani  or the Supreme Leader. Tweets in English should be sent to @HassanRouhani and @Khamenei_ir. Tweets in Persian should be sent to @Rouhani_ir and @Khamenei_fa.

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