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COVID-19 compounds Iranian Instagram celeb’s ordeal

Gulf News logo Gulf News 20/04/2020 Ramadan Al Sherbini, Correspondent

Cairo: Iran’s Instagram celebrity, Sahar Tabar who has been in jail for about six months for alleged blasphemy, has contracted the new coronavirus, rights advocates said.

Tabar, whose real name is Fatemeh Khishvand, soared to fame for having posted emaciated images of herself on her widely followed account, earning her the nickname “zombie Angelina Jolie”. Tabar admitted to having used digital editing and heavy make-up to produce the photos.

File photo of Iranian instagram star Sahar Tabar. © Gulf news File photo of Iranian instagram star Sahar Tabar.

Her lawyer, Payam Derafshan, quoting Tabar’s mother, said she had contracted the coronavirus in prison and has been put in quarantine.

Tabar, 18, was arrested last October in a clampdown by Iran on online activists. She is charged with promoting corruption among youth, insulting sacred symbols and making illicit gains.

Her lawyer said she was a minor when she was detained and demanded her release. His request has been turned down.

Tabar is now on a ventilator at Sina Hospital in Tehran, according to the US-based Centre for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI)

“In reality, she’s a teen who was unjustly jailed for being creative on Instagram and who could now die from the coronavirus she contracted in state custody,” CHRI said .

Related slideshow: Coronavirus outbreak (Provided by Photo services)

However, Mehdi Mohammadi, the chief of the prison where Tabar is being jailed, has denied she has contracted the coronavirus.

“The news released by the lawyer of Fatemeh Khishvand is not true and I deny it,” Mohammadi, told Iran’s ISNA news agency.

Mocking the denial, the lawyer accused Iranian authorities of having the habit of denial.

“It makes no sense to deny this. The prison director should acknowledge the infection and admit she has been hospitalised,” he told CHRI.

“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 added.

A presiding judge at the Revolutionary Court, according to the lawyer, repeatedly rejected requests to release her on bail, even though other prisoners of conscience have been temporarily released since the COVID-19 outbreak in the country.

Iran, the Middle East’s biggest COVID-19 hotspot, has reported over 82,000 virus infectious and 5,118 deaths due to the COVID-19. But experts believe that the actual figures are far higher.

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