By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL
Dozens of Iranians have taken part in a rare demonstration outside Tehran's Evin prison to express their support for a jailed activist on hunger strike, Arash Sadeghi.
Sadeghi, a philosophy student who is serving a 15-year prison sentence on
security charges, has reportedly been refusing to eat for more than two months
to protest the October 24 arrest of his wife, Golrokh Ebrahimi.
Ebrahimi, a writer and human rights activist, has been jailed over an unpublished fictional story about Iran's controversial practice of stoning.
Amnesty International has called the charges against her "ludicrous" and warned that "she is effectively being punished for using her imagination."
Reports say that up to 800 citizens marched peacefully near the Evin prison, where Sadeghi is being held, to bring attention to his plight.
Protest gatherings are rare in Iran, where antigovernment demonstrations are usually met with force.
Video and images from the January 2 protest shared on social media show citizens holding pictures of Sadeghi and his wife.
Some are seen raising their hands to show the names of Arash and Golrokh written
on their palms. "We Are All Arash" is written on the palms of others. Some have
covered their faces.
Video: Silent march outside Evin prison
Sadeghi's supporters have in recent days raised alarm over his health after he
went 70 days without food.
Hundreds of Iranians inside and outside the country have called for his release on Twitter under the hashtag #SaveArash.
Sadeghi's sentence for "collusion against national security," "propaganda against the state," "spreading lies in cyberspace," and "insulting the founder of the Islamic Republic [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini]" was upheld by an appeals court in March.
Sadeghi told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that the charges stemmed from his support of students who had been denied education and also for taking part in peaceful human rights gatherings.
Sadeghi's hunger strike has put him in the spotlight and earned him the admiration of many who see him as a symbol of resistance against state repression in the Islamic republic.
Amnesty International has called on the Iranian authorities to release Sadeghi and his wife.
In a January 2 statement, the London-based rights group warned that Iranian authorities were putting Sadeghi's life "at grave risk."
"The authorities are well aware that even a delay of a few hours can mean the difference between life and death for Arash Sadeghi," the statement said.
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