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Detained Iranian Instagram Celebrity On Ventilator After Contracting Coronavirus

Fatemeh Khishvand, aka Sahar Tabar, has been in detention since October 2019. (file photo)

A detained Iranian Instagram celebrity has been placed on a ventilator in a hospital in Tehran after contracting the coronavirus while in prison.

Fatemeh Khishvand, 18, known as Sahar Tabar, has been detained since October 2019 amid a judiciary crackdown on Instagram celebrities.

Khishvand's lawyer, Payam Derafshan, said that revolutionary court judge Mohammad Moghiseh, who in charge of her case, has refused to release her despite the deadly coronavirus pandemic in the country. Moghiseh is known for issuing harsh sentences to activists, dissidents and others.

"We find it unacceptable that this young woman has now caught the coronavirus in these circumstances while her detention order has been extended during all this time in jail," Derafshan told the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on April 15.

Iran has the worst coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East with a death toll nearing 5,000 and and some 78,000 infections, according to official figures. Real figures are believed to be significantly higher.

“We went to Moghiseh’s office many times and asked him to cancel the detention order and grant bail instead,” Derafshan told the Center for Human Rights in Iran.

"All of the other people accused in this case have been released and our client is the only one who has remained in detention… But the judge said no," he added.

Khishvand has been charged with "corruption on Earth," "incitement to corruption by encouraging youth to engage in lunacy," "insulting the sacred," and "acquiring illicit income," the Center for Human Rights in Iran reported.

Khishvand had over 25,000 followers on her Instagram page where she would drastically alter her appearance to resemble what has been described as a zombie version of actress Angelina Jolie. Her Instagram page was deleted following her arrest.

Instagram is the only major global social media service accessible in Iran, which has banned Facebook, Twitter, and the Telegram messenger service. Many Iranians use it to share news and information and conduct business.

Derafshan called on Iranian authorities to release Khishvand and other prisoners detained on nonviolent charges.

"We want the authorities to issue a general order to allow these prisoners to be temporarily released. In the absence of judges who are sick or not coming to work, this is the only solution," he said.

In recent weeks, thousands of prisoners have been temporarily released in Iran in an effort to combat the spread of the virus in overcrowded prisons. A judiciary spokesman said last month that inmates had been released on bail after testing negative for COVID-19.

Many, however, remain in jail, including prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, rights activist Narges Mohammadi, and American-Iranian businessman Siamak Namazi.

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