Reporters Without Borders is relieved to learn that the supreme court has overturned software and website designer Saeed Malekpour’s death sentence on charges of creating pornographic sites and “insulting Islam’s holy principles.” A 35-year-old Canadian resident who was arrested while visiting his family in Iran in 2008, Malekpour has not however been released.
The charges were based on the fact that Malekpour created a photo-uploading programme that was used by porn sites. Held incommunicado for more than a year in Tehran’s Evin prison and reportedly tortured, Malekpour insisted that he was unaware that his software had been used in this way.
It was his defence lawyer, Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabi, who reported on 5 June that the supreme court had quashed Malekpour’s death sentence on the basis of a submission prepared by a lawyer specialized in new technology law which had stressed the difference between the creation of software and the use to which it is put.
When Tehran prosecutor Abbas Ja’fari Dowlatabadi announced on 30 January that the supreme court was reexamining the death sentences passed on two “immoral website administrators,” human rights activists has assumed he was referring to Malekpour and Vahid Asghari, another netizen who had been sentenced to death.
A 25-year-old information and computer technology student at a university in India, Asghari was arrested during a return visit to Iran in 2008 and has been held ever since. He was also reportedly tortured. His trial was held at the end of 2010 but the verdict was never announced. Since then, Reporters Without Borders has been unable to obtain any information about his situation.
Several computer experts and bloggers such as Malekpour have been tried and convicted by revolutionary court judges who understand little of new technology. Some have been convicted by Mohammad Moghisieh, the president of the Tehran Revolutionary Court’s 28th Chamber, who was implicated in prisoner massacres in 1998, when he used the name Naserian.
Moghisieh is one of several judges who have been imposing harsh sentences on dissidents, journalists and bloggers for the past two years. Another is Abolghasem Salevati, the president of the Revolutionary Court’s 15th Chamber. Reporters Without Borders calls for the quashing of all of these sentences issued without due process, and for the immediate release of these bloggers.
Reporters Without Borders is also concerned about the blogger Sakhi Righi (balochistan-s.blogfa), who has been sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges of publishing false information and “acts against national security.” This is the longest jail sentence ever passed on a blogger in Iran.
Arrested on 18 June 2009 in the southeastern city of Zahedan, his home town, he is being held in appalling conditions in Karon prison, in the southwestern city of Ahvaz. Torture was used to extract the confession used to convict him. His only crime is to have the same surname as Abdolmalek Righi, the head of the Balochi armed opposition group Jundallah, whose execution on 20 June 2010 did not however lead to the blogger’s release.
Iran is on the list of “Enemies of the Internet” which Reporters Without Borders released on 12 March.
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