#FreeKhazali: twitter activists celebrate Iranian dissident Mehdi Khazali's release after hunger strike
UPDATE: Mehdi Khazali has been released from Evin Prison, according to Iranian reports.
Activists have unleashed a social media frenzy to pressure the Iranian regime to release Dr. Mehdi Khazali, a dissident who was arrested in early January. It looks like their efforts may be rewarded, as unconfirmed tweets have claimed that the Khazali was just released by prison.
Two months ago, Khazali was ambushed by Iranian security officials while leaving his office and locked into Evin Prison in Northwestern Tehran, nursing a broken arm and shattered teeth.
The Iranian ophthalmologist and blogger faces a sentence of 14 years in prison, 90 lashes, and 10 years of exile.
His charges are nothing more than for spreading vocal and non-violent dissent against the Ahmadinejad government: according to Iranian authorities, he is guilty of "propaganda against the regime, assembly and collusion with intent to act against the national security, and writing of critical letters to the Supreme Leader". Khazali voiced his opinions through a popular blog, regularly posting anti-government messages.
Khazali is the son of leading right-wing cleric and Council of Guardians member, Ayatollah Khazali. Unlike his father, Mehdi has distanced himself from theocratic governance and authoritarianism, speaking out against the widespread suppression of Iranian democratic movements and free speech. Khazali's father has denounced him and his positions publicly.
The doctor has been jailed several times already: he was arrested initially during post election events in 2009 and then subsequently in 2010 and 2011. Despite the terrifying experience he has endured in prison, he has never ceased fighting against what many Iranians view as a despotic and hostile administration.
Shortly after his arrest in January, Khazali launched a hunger strike.
Now on its 71st day, concern over Khazali's health has stirred up sympathies worldwide. With supporters attempting to gain the attention of major news outlets and human rights organizations in hopes of bringing attention to his condition, and more critically, to end oppression and censorship in Iran.
In a letter to his wife, marking the 50th day of his hunger strike and their 27th anniversary, Khazali wrote:
"Today, I continue my relentless battle in the trenches of Ward 350. It has been some time since I have been deprived of seeing you and hearing your voice. They intend to take my life, and I am ready for the sacrifice."