Iranian released from jail after four years rearrested for anti-Khamenei chants

Sepideh Gholian rearrested after chanting 'Khamenei, we will bring you down'

Iranian activist Sepideh Gholian outside the walls of Evin prison in Tehran, after her release. AFP
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Iranian authorities have reportedly rearrested a prominent activist for chanting against the country's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei just hours after her release from prison after serving a four-year sentence.

Sepideh Gholian, a journalist and one of Iran's most prominent political prisoners, was released from Tehran's notorious Evin prison on Wednesday after more than four years behind bars. She was first detained in 2018 after reporting on a labour rights protest in western Iran.

She was briefly released before being arrested again the following year on national security charges. Her family said no warrant was issued and authorities threatened to destroy her if she spoke out.

A video showed Ms Gholian after her release from Evin on Wednesday chanting against Mr Khamenei, who was been the main focus of public anger since protests began in September.

Ms Gholian was rearrested by plainclothes officers shortly after the video was posted online, Farsi-language outlets reported.

A convoy of officers stopped Ms Gholian and her family as they travelled to her home in Ahvaz.

Two people who filmed the event were also reported, according to Iran International.

Government critics are often arrested in Iran and held on trumped-up national security charges. Ms Gholian was also filmed without a head covering, which is illegal.

"Being unveiled and shouting against the dictator, this is what bravery looks like," said US-based Iranian activist Masih Alinejad.

Ms Gholian is a vocal supporter of the protests and expressed her solidarity with demonstrators from behind bars.

In 2019, Human Rights Watch said authorities were using "smear campaigns, torture and forced confessions" against her and labour rights activist Ismael Bakhshi.

Voice of the revolution 'being heard'

Ms Gholian was one of several female activists to write an open letter denouncing the execution of protesters, some of whom had only 15 minutes to plead their case.

She was taken to hospital in September after falling ill during a hunger strike, IranWire reported, saying she was appealing to be moved to a prison closer to her family and had also caught Covid-19.

"Forced confessions continue, but this is the voice of the revolution that is being heard," she wrote in a letter from prison in January.

"Today the sounds we hear ... across Iran are louder than the sounds in interrogation rooms; this is the sound of a revolution, the true sound of 'Woman, life, freedom," she said, AFP reported.

The protests began after the death of Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in morality police custody while on a visit to Tehran.

Authorities claimed she had breached Iran's strict Islamic dress code and wore her headscarf too loosely. Thursday marks six months since her death.

Many believe she was beaten to death by morality police in a case that sparked nationwide protests which continue ahead of next week's Persian New Year celebrations, or Nowruz.

More than 500 people have been killed and 20,000 detained for participating in the demonstrations.

Updated: March 16, 2023, 10:33 AM