Prison Sentence For Iranian Blogger Seen As Warning To Others
By Golnaz Esfandiari,
Iranian bloggers are speaking out against the prison
sentence given to
Iran's "blogfather" Hossein Derakhshan, who has been reportedly condemned to 19
and 1/2 years in prison on charges that include "propagating against the state"
and "cooperating with hostile governments."
The sentence appears to be in connection with his writings and
also his 2006 trip to Israel. Iran doesn't recognize Israel and Iranian citizens
are banned from traveling to the Jewish state.
In recent years a number of bloggers have been jailed in Iran over their
writings and online dissent; several are currently in prison, including blogger
and human rights activist Kouhyar Goudarzi. But the lengthy prison sentence
against Derakhshan, known as Hoder, is unprecedented.
In addition to the prison sentence, the Iranian-Canadian blogger has also been
fined the equivalent of about $40,000 and banned from membership in any
journalistic or political organization for five years.
Derakhshan, a highly controversial figure who popularized blogging in Iran, has
in recent years become a supporter of the country's hard-line President Mahmud
Ahmadinejad. He has criticized reformist bloggers and journalists on his blog
and accused them of being used by Western countries.
Iranian bloggers say the prison sentence for Derakhshan should be condemned
despite his views and stances.
Blogger "Dariush M" believes
the heavy prison sentence for Derakhshan is a warning to other bloggers:
It's not important at all if this sentence will be one
day overturned or Hossein Derakhshan acquitted. The sentence itself has a
clear and implicit meaning: this sentence is a threat to bloggers, it's
politicizing the pen and punishing whoever might write against the taste of
[those in power]. Each of the charges against Derakhshan is laughable....
Hossein Derakhshan is a mirror of something that can happen to any of us.
Defending Derakhshan is defending human respectability and reputation. It is
defending us. This shows to what extent the ruling system in Iran is afraid
of the free flow of information.
Prominent blogger and journalist Mehdi Mohseni says the prison sentence against
Derakhshan is the result of "injustice by Iran's judiciary" and what he
describes as Derakhshan's "radicalism, change of stance, and optimistic trust in
the Iranian establishment."
Mohseni told me that the prison sentence against Derakhshan must be condemned by
all those supporting human rights.
"Although he had called on us bloggers and journalists, whom he described as
footboys of foreign governments, not to write anything about him, moral
principles dictate us to defend Hossein's human and legal rights," said Mohseni,
who works with the Persian Service of Deutsche Welle.
The Paris-based media watch Reporters Without Borders has said that Derakhshan
has become a victim of political rivalry within the Iranian government.
"Such a long jail term has never before been imposed on a blogger in Iran and is
indicative of a desire to make an example out of Derakhshan," said Reporters
Without Borders in a statement.
Derakhshan's lawyer, Mohammad Ali Mahdavi, has told the online daily "Rooz" that
he will appeal
against the sentence once
he is officially notified.
"We're hoping to save Derakhshan from the current situation in the appeal court
and through our efforts," said Mahdavi.
35-year-old Derakhshan has been in jail in Iran since November 2008.
Copyright (c) 2010 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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