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Archive for January, 2012

FOR  IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 30, 2012

“IRGC mounts pressure on Saeed Malekpour and his family”

Toronto, Canada | On Sunday the Iranian regime’s media mouthpieces reported on the Supreme Court of Iran’s decision to uphold Saeed Malekpour’s execution sentence- two weeks after the Canadian resident’s lawyers had already informed his sister of the horrific news and major newspapers, websites, and human rights organizations had reported on it. The international community’s urgent response to Saeed’s devastating situation resulted in the release of some statements of protest by world government officials and departments including Britain’s and Canada’s Foreign Affairs Ministers, Canadian Liberal party member Irwin Cotler, and the U.S. Department of State

Last year, after Judge Moghiseh issued Saeed Malekpour’s initial death sentence for internet-related charges, the Supreme Court judges reached the decision that the Canadian resident’s case file contained a list of discrepancies that Moghiseh needed to review and investigate before issuing a new sentence. In a desperate move to finalize Saeed’s death, Moghiseh reinstated the execution sentence in November 2011 during a trial that lasted only several minutes. Moghiseh, who is notorious for his corrupt behaviour, failed to acknowledge the discrepancies in the case file or launch an investigation.

About two weeks ago, the head Judge of the Supreme Court branch where Saeed’s case file was re-sent, had notified Saeed’s lawyer on the phone that the Supreme Court was somehow able to approve Saeed’s death sentence under the charge of “Corruption on Earth”- even with the discrepancies existing in the case file. The head Judge and his colleague reportedly refused to vote on Saeed’s execution sentence and were unable to confirm the identify of the three judges who had voted affirmatively. Saeed’s lawyers described the Supreme Court’s voting process as “highly suspicious and illegal.” Analysts and Saeed’s family and friends believe that, following the Canadian resident’s arrest, his life has been entirely orchestrated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Nobody affiliated to Saeed’s defense case has been able to view Saeed’s case file in its entirety, thus it is unclear how the Iranian Judiciary was able to justify issuing Saeed a death sentence in the first place. “By confirming Saeed Malekpour’s death sentence after an unfair trial, the Iranian authorities are sending a message to Iranians not to freely express their views, or even to help others to do so, including on the internet,” said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Last week Saeed had contacted his sister from prison and informed her that IRGC interrogators attempted to extract more false confessions from him and threatened to “do whatever they want” to his sister if she continued to speak up about her brother’s dire situation. Saeed had refused to cooperate with them. 

In 2008, IRGC agents were able to extract more than 30 hours of false confessions from Saeed after they had severely tortured him. The false confessions were repeatedly aired on the Iranian regime’s official state-run media nearly two years before Saeed was issued a sentence or received a trial. “Airing the confessions and implying Saeed’s guilt prior to a trial is considered illegal, according to Iranian and international laws,” said Toronto-based human rights activist Maryam Nayeb Yazdi. 

Starting last week, human rights activists, with the help of Amnesty International, launched a street campaign calling on people in different cities around the world to organize rallies to protest Saeed’s death sentence (interested participants should email: FreeSaeedMalekpourNow@gmail.com). The first protest was held last week in Montreal followed by this Saturday in Toronto’s Dundas Square. A protest is also being planned in Ottawa for next week. Future protest dates in other cities will be announced shortly. The rallies aim to shed light on the Iranian Judiciary’s lack of due process in issuing and upholding Saeed’s death sentence.

Joining in on the fight to save Saeed’s life, two internationally recognized Iranian activists also raised their voices against injustice. Iranian human rights lawyer and former political prisoner Shadi Sadr recently said:

“The reality is that the only evidence presented to issue the death sentence was the confessions IRGC agents were able to extract from Saeed Malekpour under extreme torture…It is completely apparent that the IRGC has exercised all its extrajudicial powers to interfere and force the Supreme Court to uphold Saeed’s death sentence, even when the Supreme Court had previously stated that the case file contained discrepancies. Saeed Malekpour can be hanged any day.”

Marina Nemat, an Iranian-Canadian author and former teenage prisoner in Evin said: 

“Since 1981, thousands of Iranians have been arbitrarily detained, tortured, and even executed. I was tortured in Evin prison in Tehran…Saeed Malekpour is one of the victims of the Iranian regime.”

For more information on the latest developments in Saeed Malekpour’s case, please visit the Free Saeed Malekpour Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/Free.Saeed.Malekpour

CONTACT |

Saeed Malekpour Campaign
Email: FreeSaeedMalekpourNow@gmail.com 

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Statement by Minister Baird on Malekpour Death Sentence

January 29, 2012 – Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today issued the following statement:

“Canada is deeply concerned about reports that Iranian citizen Saeed Malekpour’s death sentence has been confirmed by the Iranian authorities. His case is but one example of the refusal by Iranian authorities to respect their international human rights obligations.

“On December 26, 2010, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani was told that her death sentence may still be carried out in the form of a hanging. She has been forced to confess to charges of murder and adultery on Iranian television.

“Iranian authorities sentenced seven administrators of the Baháí Institute for Higher Education to four- and five-year sentences solely on the basis of their faith.

“On January 14, 2012, Pastor Youcef Naderkhani was asked to renounce his Christian faith or face execution for the charge of apostasy.

“Iran’s current leaders regularly ignore their obligations under international law and have failed to meet internationally recognized norms of due process and transparency.

“We call on Iran to reverse its current course and meet its international human rights obligations and release prisoners such as Saeed Malekpour and others who have failed to receive fair and transparent legal treatment.”

- 30 -

For further information, media representatives may contact:

Foreign Affairs Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
+613-995-1874
Follow us on Twitter: @DFAIT_MAECI

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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesperson
__________________________________________________________

For Immediate Release
January 26, 2012
2012/xxx

STATEMENT BY VICTORIA NULAND, SPOKESPERSON
Wave of Arrests, Harassment, and Death Sentences in Iran

We are deeply concerned by the alarming increase in the Iranian regime’s efforts to extinguish all forms of free expression and limit its citizens’ access to information in the lead-up to March parliamentary elections.

In the past two weeks, security forces have reportedly arrested four journalists, including Shahram Manouchehri, Sahamedin Bourghani, Parastoo Dokouhaki, and Marzieh Rasouli, and Iranian courts confirmed death sentences for bloggers Saeed Malekpour and Vahid Asghari, both of whom were not accorded due process and now face imminent execution on charges of “spreading corruption.”

The international community has repeatedly raised its concerns regarding Iran’s human rights record, calling on it to abide by its commitments to protect the rights of all its citizens and uphold the rule of law, including the conduct of a transparent electoral process that permits citizens to make their voices heard. We urge Iranian officials to respond to these calls, cooperate with UN Special Rapporteur Dr. Ahmed Shaheed and allow him to enter Iran to conduct his work.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 26, 2012

The IRGC Has Increased Pressure on Canadian Resident on Death Row in Iran 

“Saeed Malekpour’s Death Sentence Has Been Confirmed…But, he STILL HAS NOT received a fair trial!”

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Saeed Malekpour’s life is in imminent danger of execution when his appeal was rejected and his death sentence was confirmed by the Supreme Court of Iran. Saeed Malekpour can face execution at any time.

According to confirmed sources from inside Iran, a few days ago in Evin prison, “Cyber Army” interrogators transferred Saeed Malekpour, who is held in the IRGC-controlled ward AA, to a solitary cell. They demanded from the Canadian resident to give more false confessions in front of the camera. Saeed refused to cooperate so the interrogators returned him to his cell.

In 2008, the IRGC had tortured Saeed so severely that the freelance computer programmer was forced to give more than 30 hours of false confessions in front of the camera, “admitting” to obscenities that he later stated in a letter were extracted under torture”

Joining Saeed’s worldwide campaign as a spokesperson, Marina Nemat, author of “Prisoner of Tehran” and a former prisoner in Iran, recently said: “Since 1981, thousands of Iranians have been arbitrarily detained, tortured, and even executed. I was tortured in Evin prison in Tehran…Saeed Malekpour is one of the victims of the Iranian regime.”

People like Saeed, who have never received fair treatment by the Iranian Judiciary, risk execution because they are being used as scapegoats to fulfill the oppressive regime’s shameful crusade against humanity.

As the internal political and economical tensions rise in Iran, regime authorities are visibly becoming more desperate to “withdraw from the global Internet”, and they are willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen. One such way is to kill Saeed Malekpour, or someone else who is currently condemned to death in Iran and held on Internet-related charges. Vahid Asghari and Ahmad Reza Hashempour are in imminent danger of execution too. Human rights activists and analysts believe that the regime’s main objective is to further vilify the act of information-spreading so Iranians become increasingly silenced by their own fear.

Fortunately, brutal assaults on the free-flow of information have moved the international community to speak out louder in support of suppressed citizens. Due to the sensitive nature surrounding Saeed Malekpour’s case, world leaders are urged to act immediately to save the Canadian resident from imminent execution. Additionally, concerned citizens, the media, human rights organizations, and other institutions concerned about Saeed’s life are encouraged to talk and write about Saeed.

The united efforts of the international community could help save Saeed’s life.

CONTACTS |

Maryam Nayeb Yazdi
Human rights activist
Editor
Coordinator, Saeed Malekpour Campaign

Phone: +416 845 0453
Email: maryam.nayebyazdi@gmail.com

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The International Center for Human Rights — Toronto, Canada: The Toronto-based International Center for Human Rights (ICHR) is organizing a demonstration against Saeed Malekpours’s death sentence in Toronto, Dundas Square, on Saturday, January 28th at 2:00pm . Members and Supporters of ICHR will bring Photos of Saeed Malekpour and stand in Dundas square to be his voice and show to the world what is happening to Iranian people. Fact sheets will be distributed to passersby who wish to obtain prisoners.

This event will end at 3:00pm

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GTA resident Saeed Malekpour faces death sentence in Iran.GTA resident Saeed Malekpour faces death sentence in Iran.

The Star: Shaken by the Arab Spring’s drive for reform, rattled by mass protests in major cities and pummeled by sanctions over their nuclear program, Iran’s clerical leaders are lashing out at those they blame for defying the regime.

Lawyers, rights activists, journalists, students, bloggers and other critics have been hauled before the courts and jailed as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s hardliners try to crush opposition voices, Human Rights Watch reports. And in what Amnesty International calls a “killing spree of staggering proportions,” the regime has paraded its toughness by executing more than 600 people including children in the past year for offences that range from drug trafficking, to terrorism, spying and sodomy.

Now a Canadian resident has been ordered to pay with his life for running afoul of the mullahs as they seek to suppress the Internet as well, the Star’s Olivia Ward reports.

Saeed Malekpour, an engineer and website designer who makes his home in the Greater Toronto Area, faces the death penalty for the catch-all crime of “insulting Islam.” His offence? Developing image-uploading software that was used — by others, he says — to post pornographic images. He was charged on a trip to Iran in 2008, and the country’s high court has just reconfirmed his death sentence. During his time in prison he says he was stripped by interrogators, beaten, flogged and threatened with rape.

Canadians who remember photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, who was beaten to death in 2003 in a Tehran prison after covering a student protest, will not find Malekpour’s plight hard to believe. And he’s not the only Canadian on death row. So is Toronto resident Hamid Ghassemi-Shall, on spy charges.

The authorities may well be making an example of Malekpour to warn others — including political activists — away from using the Internet for unauthorized purposes.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has criticized Tehran’s “utter disregard for human life,” and Malekpour’s death sentence. But Ottawa has little leverage, given its fierce and justified criticism of Iran’s nuclear program and support for terror. Still, the Malekpour case has now become an international cause célèbre. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists have all denounced his death sentence. Even if Malekpour were guilty as charged, his actions would not merit the death penalty in any credible justice system.

This case can only further discredit Tehran’s extremists in the eyes of Canadians and the world. Already, it has brought calls here for even tougher sanctions; former justice minister Irwin Cotler, who heads an interparliamentary group on human rights in Iran, has been particulary forceful. Regardless, Iran’s rulers should rethink this dubious conviction and rescind this brutal sentence.

Like so many others, Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution long ago turned sour. The country’s leaders delude themselves by imagining that they can repress dissidents endlessly. Things are especially harsh now as Iran prepares for parliamentary elections in March, and the leading factions try to outdo each other in rooting out enemies, perceived and real.

But every new political arrest, cruel interrogation, rigged trial and execution validates the reformist spirit of the Arab Spring. It is no insult to Islam to challenge repression. Iranians, too, are coming to recognize that.

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Protesters rally for the release of Saeed Malekpour in Montreal on Sunday. Malekpour, an Iranian-born software engineer and permanent resident of Canada, is facing execution in Tehran for allegedly designing a website used to post pornography.Protesters rally for the release of Saeed Malekpour in Montreal on Sunday. Malekpour, an Iranian-born software engineer and permanent resident of Canada, is facing execution in Tehran for allegedly designing a website used to post pornography.
By Olivia Ward Foreign Affairs Reporter

The Star: As the clock ticks toward his execution in Iran, GTA resident Saeed Malekpour is unaware that he has lost the last appeal of his death sentence for “insulting Islam.”

Meanwhile, governments and human rights organizations around the world are protesting the sentence and asking Iran to quash it.

The Canadian and British governments have issued strong statements, and in the week since Malekpour lost his appeal, Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists and Amnesty International have raised their voices against his execution.

But 36-year-old Malekpour, an engineer and website developer, has been isolated in Tehran’s feared Evin prison since he was arrested in October 2008, and is unable to meet with his lawyer or family members.

“Saeed is still unaware that his death sentence was confirmed by the Supreme Court,” said rights advocate Maryam Nayeb Yazdi. “The only access to the outside world that he has is a two-minute phone call once a week.”

Malekpour, a Canadian permanent resident, was arrested while making an emergency visit to Iran to see his father, who was dying of a brain tumour. But he was seized and detained on charges that he had designed a website used to post pornographic images.

“Saeed didn’t learn of his father’s death until a month later,” said sources in Iran. They said he was denied permission to attend a memorial ceremony at his father’s grave, and instead was tortured until he agreed to a forced confession, which was widely shown on state television.

“The (Revolutionary Guard) told him, ‘Don’t worry, we won’t be airing your confessions,’” the sources said, adding that Malekpour’s mother had a heart attack when she saw him admitting to “ridiculous and horrible acts” on TV.

Malekpour was condemned to death, but the sentence was overturned last summer by Iran’s Supreme Court, which later said the case needed further investigation and handed it back to the court that issued the death sentence.

Malekpour’s final appeal was lost last week when the Supreme Court reconfirmed the sentence.

“Since the recent unrest in the Middle East and the tightening of economic sanctions against Iran, the regime has become more desperate and arrests and executions have increased,” said author Marina Nemat, who was imprisoned and tortured for speaking out against the regime in the early 1980s.

“These terrible methods are used to control the Iranian population. Saeed Malekpour is one of (the regime’s) victims.”

Liberal MP Irwin Cotler — a former justice minister who heads the interparliamentary group on human rights in Iran — said there were reports that Malekpour’s death sentence was “reinstated under pressure from the Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . responsible for the murder of dissidents both inside and outside of Iran.”

He urged the government to impose sanctions on the group and declare it a “terrorist entity.” His group called for Malekpour’s immediate release.

In Britain, Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt condemned Iran’s executions and called for an urgent review of Malekpour’s sentence, and those of others condemned on similar charges. He said that Malekpour’s “harsh sentencing” is contrary to Iran’s international human rights obligations, and raises questions about its “inadequate judicial standards.”

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Mail Online: A Canadian Iranian software engineer is facing imminent execution in Tehran for allegedly operating a pornography website after the Iranian Supreme Court rejected a final appeal from his lawyers.

Saeed Malekpour, 35, says he was tortured into making a confession about the website on live TV and Iranian officials used the broadcast to give him the death sentence.

The software engineer’s family says the web software was only designed for uploading and sharing photos and that adult sites used it without is knowledge.

Human rights campaigners believe the hardline Islamist regime wants to use Malekpour as an example as it cracks down on Internet freedom ahead of elections.

Saeed MalekpourSentenced to die: Saeed Malekpour lost his final appeals in Iranian court after being convicted of ‘insulting and desecrating Islam’
Saeed MalekpourCanadian Iranian: Malekpour is a permanent resident of Canada who was on his path to citizenship when he was arrested in Tehran

Malekpour, who is a permanent Canadian resident on the path the citizenship there, returned to his native Iran in 2008 to visit his dying grandfather.

He was picked up off the street by plainclothes Iranian policemen and taken to Evin Prison.

He later appeared on Iranian TV with a video-taped confession admitting to posting pornographic images.

On the basis of that confession, he was convicted of ‘insulting and desecrating Islam’ and sentenced to death.

Evin PrisonHouse of torture: Malekpour says he was beaten and tortured into making a confession at Evin Prison in Tehran (pictured here)

He later sent a letter from prison detailing how he was beaten with batons and cables and forced into making the confession.

Sources told the Toronto Star he was targeted for especially harsh treatment in prison because the regime was hoping to make an example of him for his work online.

His lawyers appealed the conviction to the Iranian Supreme Court, which overturned the lower court decision at first.

But then, apparently after bowing to political pressure, the Star says, the highest court invalidated its own opinion and sent the matter back to the lower courts for retrial.

Now, after a second conviction, the Supreme Court has refused to hear Malekpour’s appeal.

His conviction and death sentence stand.

‘The branch of the Supreme Court responsible for (his) case announced to one of his lawyers that the court reached the decision to have the death sentence carried out,’ Toronto-based human rights campaigner Maryam Nayeb Yazdi told the Star.

‘Saeed Malekpour is in imminent danger of execution.’

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CPJ (Committee to Protect Journalists) : Politically-related Iranian prosecutions often take place in near secrecy, with unclear charges morphing and changing over time. It doesn’t get any easier to work out the motivations of prosecutors when the charges are connected to technology.

Web developer Saeed Malekpour and IT professionals Vahid Asghari and Ahmad Reza Hasempour, who are all accused of hosting illegal content online, were sentenced to death in early January, according to several news reports. But what kind of content? The prosecutor claim that the network was, in part, pornographic, but Asghari has also been accused of spying in collaboration with blogger Hossein Derakshan, and wrote that he was forced under torture to state that Hossein was an agent of the CIA.

What we do know is Asghari, Hasempour, and Malekpour were all targeted because they were seen as capable of hosting, or assisting with the building of websites. They have been described by the Iranian government and state media as “The Strayed Three” (the “Mozzelin 3″). Iran has a policy of dismantling “destructive” online networks, and the three appear to have been rounded up as part of this crackdown.

It’s not even clear whether the three were involved in illegal hosting. Malekpour’s wife, Fatima Eftekhari, has stated that his involvement was limited to writing a generic uploading script which was then used by the publishers of adult websites.

If true, that means that in Iran, putting your name to an open source utility could leave you detained, beaten, and tortured, and then sentenced to death.

The charges against Iran’s web developers are so vague as to make it difficult for CPJ to ascertain whether their work was directly involved in news reporting. But as any blogger knows, independent web hosts and developers are as key a part of creating a web presence as the writers and reporters. Creating an atmosphere of fear by arresting and torturing independent hosters of content is as damaging to press freedom as rounding up the operators of printing presses would be in an earlier age.

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Minister Alistair Burt called on Iran to urgently review all new cases involving death sentences, and arrests contrary to human rights obligations.

Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt MP

“I am deeply concerned by a new wave of executions and arrests in Iran.

“There are reports that Iran has already executed around 50 people this year, some of them in grotesque public displays. This continues a shocking trend of excessive use of the death penalty that has been condemned by the United Nations.

“There has been a wave of arrests and persecution of researchers and journalists.  Journalists Saeed Madani, Parastoo Dokouhaki, Marizeh Rassouli, Mohammad Soleymaninia, Sahameddin Bourghani, Fatemeh Kheradmand, Arash Sadeghi, Ehsan Houshmand and Hassan Fathi have all been detained in the last month. This raises further, serious questions about Iran’s stated commitment to freedom of expression.

“I was also disturbed to see reports of a lack of due process in the harsh sentencing to death of three Iranians Saeed Malekpour, Ahmadreza Hashempour and Vahid Asghari on charges of “spreading corruption on earth”. Civil society organisations have raised serious concerns over the fairness, transparency and the speed of the court proceedings. Such actions are contrary to Iran’s international human rights obligations and raise further questions about the inadequate judicial standards.

“I call on Iran to review all these cases urgently.”

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