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Sharing A Cell With 'Iran's Blogfather'

By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL

Former lawmaker Ali Shakouri-rad, who was arrested last year on charges of spreading lies and propaganda against the Islamic Republic, has written in his blog that he shared a cell for several weeks with Hossein Derakhshan, who is well-known for popularizing blogging in Iran.

Hossein Derakhshan

Derakhshan, who was arrested in November 2008 after returning to Iran, has been sentenced to 19 1/2 years in prison over his writings and a trip to Israel. Derakhshan was temporarily released on bail in December.

Shakouri-rad writes in his blog that Derakhshan asked him to write about him upon his release to change the views of those who might have misjudged him.

Derakhshan is a highly controversial figure in Iran. He was a reformist journalist before becoming a government supporter and -- detractors say -- turning against fellow journalists and bloggers.

Shakouri-rad writes that Derakhshan, who is waiting for an appeals court to review his prison sentence, remains a supporter of Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad:

"He had lived outside the country for many years and had distanced himself from religion, but with the coming to power of Ahmadinejad and because of his anti-U.S. stances, [Derakhshan] gradually became his supporter. He then returned to Iran and now also approves of Ahmadinejad's domestic policies.

"I was in that [cell] with him for a month; it was an interesting experience maybe for both of us, who are from two different generations with very different views. He believes the Iranian establishment has many supporters around the world who are not religious; he believes being religious is not necessary for supporting this establishment. He believes that is also applicable inside the country and the establishment should not deprive itself of such supporters. He has returned to religion and performs the prayers. He shared a cell for a short time with Hamzeh Ghalebi, the person in charge of the student election headquarters of [opposition leader Mir Hossein Musavi], and he was happy that he could again share his views with a reformist. He was suffering from the fact that he couldn't serve Ahmadinejad's government and the Iranian establishment in jail and he considered his jailing a foolish matter."

Copyright (c) 2011 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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