The Guardian reported that Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan has been sentenced to more than 19 years in prison.
Derakhshan “was convicted of co-operation with hostile countries, spreading propaganda against the ruling establishment, promotion of counter-revolutionary groups and insulting Islamic thoughts and religious figures, said the conservative website, Mashreghnews, which is close to the office of Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,” The Guardian reported.
Derakhshan has been in prison since 2008 and is dubbed the Iranian “blogfather,” as he created “one of the first Persian-language blogs,” The Los Angeles Times noted.
Further, Derakhshan has been “banned from joining any political or journalistic organization and fined over $40,000.”
The week prior to Derakhshan’s sentencing, journalists and governments from around the world decried the Iranian government’s threat of the death sentence for the blogger. The Canadian Journalism Project explained Sept. 22 the reasons for appealing to the government.
“We know that the Iranian government listens to outside voices – and it’s vital that they hear our voices now. The proposed sentence is a travesty,” Canadian Journalism Project quoted CJFE’s president Arnold Amber as saying.
Further, both CJFE and PEN Canada requested that the Canadian government step in because Derakhshan is a joint Canadian and Iranian citizen, Canadian Journalism Project added.
“We are deeply concerned by reports of this severe sentence against Mr. Derakhshan,” the Montreal Gazette reported Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said. “Mr. Derakhshan’s situation is complicated by his dual nationality, which is not recognized by Iranian authorities. Iran must release him and other dual nationals who have been unjustly detained.”
Derakhshan blogs under the name “Hoder” and “has been an outspoken critic of the Iranian regime, particularly in the areas of civil liberties, censorship and freedom of speech. Derakhshan also visited Israel in 2006, under a Canadian passport, something that is illegal for Iranian citizens,” The Gazette added. A Google search of Hoder’s website, www.hoder.com, now is a dead link.
In a Sept. 28 press release, nonprofit writers’ advocate group PEN Canada labeled Derakhshan’s sentence “a serious violation of Iranian obligations under international law.”
“It is clear that Derakhshan, charged with cooperating with hostile countries, spreading propaganda and insulting religious figures, was sentenced for merely enjoying the right to freedom of expression,” PEN Canada added
The nonprofit Reporters without Borders similarly wrote, explaining that the group is “outraged by the extremely long jail sentence” for Derakhshan.
Reporters without Borders noted that because Iranian bloggers have never been given a prison sentence the length of Derakhshan’s, it seems “indicative of a desire to make an example out of Derakhshan.” Further, the advocacy group called on Iran’s president to step in. “We urge President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to intercede personally in order to obtain his release without delay,” Reporters without Borders wrote.
Iran was ranked 172 of 175 on Reporters without Borders 2009 press freedom list. The only countries ranked lower are Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea.
Both Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran’s Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic Ali Khamenei were named to Reporters without Borders’ list of 40 freedom predators this May. See StinkyJournalism’s report on the freedom predators list here.
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