Aref was convicted of propaganda against the Iranian government in March 2010 and sent to Evin prison. The Tehran University student was arrested after he wrote an insulting letter to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in which he criticized the president for cracking down on student demonstrators after the controversial 2009 election.
Whenever Ahmadinejad goes to [the U.N. General Assembly in] New York, he boasts that Iran is the world's freest country but I was brutally flogged in my country for insulting him, Aref told Rahesabz (an Iranian blog) after his release. [My crime] was that I wrote an open letter to Ahmadinejad and reminded him of what he did to the universities.
Ahmadinejad has publicly condemned the lashing, which he said invites influential people [to] freely defame him, according to Voice of America.
Lashing people sentenced to various charges such as those caught drinking alcohol is common in Iran but political activists are usually lashed for ambiguous charges such as desecrating Islam or prophets, an Iranian journalist told The Guardian. Lashing Aref for insulting Ahmadinejad is shocking and unprecedented.
Iran has received significant international attention recently for its severe penal code. On Monday, Iranian actress Marzieh Vafamehr was sentenced to one year in prison and 90 lashes, for the crime of appearing in My Tehran for Sale, a banned film that casts Iran in a negative light.
Ironically, “My Tehran for Sale is about an Iranian actress who is jailed and beaten for acting immodestly. The movie was shot in Tehran, and leaked copies of “My Tehran for Sale have been passed around the country in defiance of the ban.
Iran, which executes more people per year than any nation other than China, is also the country where a Christian pastor named Youcef Nadarkhani was allegedly sentenced to death for the crime of abandoning Islam. The Iranian government now says that Nadarkhani is a convicted rapist and extortionist, but court documents indicate that the death sentence came after the pastor refused to convert to Islam.
Youcef Nadarkhani, son of Byrom, 32 years old, married, born in Rasht in the state of Gilan, is convicted of turning his back on Islam, the greatest religion the prophesy of Mohammad at the age of 19, a Supreme Court document stated.
He has often participated in Christian worship and organized home church services, evangelizing and has been baptized and baptized others, converting Muslims to Christianity. He has been accused of breaking Islamic Law that from puberty (15 years according to Islamic law) until the age of 19 the year 1996, he was raised a Muslim in a Muslim home.
During court trials, he denied the prophecy of Mohammad and the authority of Islam. He has stated that he is a Christian and no longer Muslim. During many sessions in court with the presence of his attorney and a judge, he has been sentenced to execution by hanging according to article 8 of Tahrir–olvasileh.
Iran has turned Nadarkhani's death sentence over to its highest religious and political authority; Ayatollah Khamenei could decide if Nadarkhani will be hanged according to Iranian law.