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Archive for January, 2012

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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19 January 2012

Iran must halt execution of web programmer

Saeed Malekpour is now at imminent risk of executionSaeed Malekpour is now at imminent risk of execution© Private

Iran must not execute a web programmer sentenced to death after one of his web programs was used to post pornographic images without his knowledge, Amnesty International said today, as the Iranian authorities continue their crackdown on bloggers and other users of the internet.

Iran’s Supreme Court confirmed the death sentence for Saeed Malekpour, 35, on Tuesday on charges of “insulting and desecrating Islam”. He could now be executed at any time.

The Supreme Court’s decision comes as the Iranian government is stepping up its targeting of internet users in a crackdown on freedom of expression ahead of the Iranian parliamentary elections in March.

“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 interim Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“The Supreme Court should have investigated the reports of Saeed Malekpour’s torture instead of confirming his sentence. If he is held solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression, he should be released immediately and unconditionally.”

Saeed Malekpour, a permanent resident of Canada, was arrested in October 2008 while visiting his family in Iran. He is alleged to have been tortured while being held in solitary confinement in Tehran’s Evin Prison for more than a year.

A Revolutionary Court sentenced Saeed Malekpour to death in October 2010. After the Supreme Court returned the case for further review, the Revolutionary Court re-imposed the death sentence in November 2011.

The charges against him are believed to be in relation to the misuse of a program he created which enabled photos to be uploaded online.

Blogger Vahid Asghari, who had been studying information and computer technology in India prior to his arrest in 2008, and website administrator Ahmad Reza Hashempour are also on death row after apparently unfair trials, awaiting execution on internet-related charges.

“It is time for Iran to stop executing people, especially after trials that fall far short of international human rights standards. The authorities must also not unlawfully limit the right to freedom of expression with vaguely worded charges,” Ann Harrison said.

A growing number of media workers in Iran are being targeted because of their work on the internet.

According to reports, journalist and blogger Marzieh Rasouli was arrested by security forces at her home in Tehran on Tuesday.

Two days earlier women’s rights activist and blogger Parastoo Dokouhaki, also known for her work as a journalist, was arrested by security forces at her home in Tehran. She has since been charged with “propaganda against the system” and believed to be held in Evin Prison.

On Wednesday, journalist and photographer Sahamaddin Bourghani was arrested in his home in Tehran. The reasons for his arrest are unknown.

Simin Nematollahi, a contributor to Majzooban-e Noor, a Sufi news website was arrested at her home in Tehran on 11 January on a charge of “propaganda against the system”.

Several members of the website’s staff were arrested in September 2011 and have since been freed on bail pending trial.

Dual Iranian and Canadian national, Hossein Derakhshan, known as the “blogfather” for introducing blogging to Iran, is serving a 19 and a half year sentence on internet-related charges. Fellow blogger Hossein Ronaghi Maleki is serving a 15-year sentence for his writings on the internet. He is in very poor health

The government has officially acknowledged executing at least 31 people already this year, although Amnesty International has received information suggesting at least another 22 people were put to death. This would bring the total number of executions for 2012 to 53 people. Five of those executions were carried out in public.

In December 2011, Amnesty International highlighted a massive wave of executions in Iran throughout 2011, with over 600 people being put to death. Most of these were for drug-related offences.

The scope of the death penalty is very broad in Iran and thousands are believed to remain on death row. These include: Hamid Ghassemi-Shall, a dual national of Iran and Canada, who was sentenced to death in 2008 on espionage-related charges; Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, who faces death by stoning after being convicted of “adultery while married”; and Pastor Yousef Naderkhani, who is held pending the outcome of his retrial on the charge of “apostasy from Islam”.

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Saeed Malekpour, seen with wife Fatima Eftekhari, is a Canadian permanent resident on death row in Iran.

Saeed Malekpour, seen with wife Fatima Eftekhari, is a Canadian permanent resident on death row in Iran.

By Olivia Ward Foreign Affairs Reporter

The Star: Hope is fading for Richmond Hill’s Saeed Malekpour, who has lost his final appeal against a death sentence in Iran.

“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,” says Maryam Nayeb Yazdi, a Toronto-based human rights activist.

“Saeed Malekpour is in imminent danger of execution.”

Malekpour, a 35-year-old permanent resident of Canada, was awaiting citizenship when he was arrested.

“Canada condemns Iran’s reported decision to execute Mr. Malekpour,” said a statement issued Tuesday by Foreign Minister John Baird’s office.

“Sadly, his case is far from the only example of Iran’s utter disregard for human life. The regime in Tehran frequently ignores principles like due process for its citizens domestically, and international human rights obligations generally.”

An engineer and web designer, Malekpour was visiting his gravely ill father in Tehran when he was arrested in 2008 and charged with “insulting and desecrating Islam.” He was accused of creating a site Iran claims was used to post “pornographic” images.

Human rights monitors believe that Malekpour, one of a number of people held on Internet-related charges, is trapped by a convoluted justice system that is manipulated by rival factions in Iran.

Iranians Vahid Asghari and Ahmad Reza Hashempour are also awaiting execution on Internet charges, as Tehran takes increasingly draconian measures to silence suspected dissidents ahead of a March election.

A Canadian citizen, Hossein Derakhshan, known as the “blogfather” for his part in introducing blogging to Iran, is serving a 20-year sentence on similar charges. Meanwhile, Toronto shoe salesman Hamid Ghassemi-Shall, also a Canadian citizen, is on death row on espionage charges.

Malekpour, who wrote a letter from Evin Prison describing interrogation under torture and forced confession, spent 19 months in solitary confinement. Sources say he has been singled out for especially harsh treatment.

Nevertheless, his original death sentence was overturned by the Supreme Court last summer. But later — possibly under political pressure — the top judicial body announced that its verdict was inconclusive and the case should be reviewed and investigated. It handed the case back to the court that had originally sentenced Malekpour, and it confirmed his sentence without review.

His lawyers appealed again to the Supreme Court for an investigation, which was rejected Monday.

“The lawyers have not yet received the ruling in writing, but they did confirm the death sentence verbally,” said Yazdi. “Only the united efforts of the international community can help to save his life.”

Iran’s court system is weighted against people accused of crimes. “Political suspects received grossly unfair trials in which they often faced vaguely worded charges that did not amount to recognizably criminal offences,” said a 2011 human rights report by Amnesty International.

“Frequently they were convicted in the absence of defence lawyers on the basis of ‘confessions’ or other information allegedly obtained under torture in pre-trial detention.”

In his letter, Malekpour said his torture included “severe beatings with batons, cables and fists.”

Advocates are particularly concerned for his life because his case has been widely publicized in Iran. They fear he will be used as an example to silence others who may use the Internet to spread dissent or subvert Iran’s strict moral code.

They are also worried by the escalating number of people executed in Iran, some 600 in the past year. Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, it has held periodic mass executions to create fear among suspected enemies of the regime.

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Canada's Prime Minister, Stephen Harper

Please take action for Saeed by writing a letter to the Prime Minister of Canada asking him to pressure the Iranian regime to halt Saeed’s imminent execution.

“Prime Minister Stephen Harper, please bring Saeed home!”

SAMPLE LETTER:

 

Dear Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada:

I’m writing this letter to inform you about the imminent execution of Saeed Malekpour. He is a Canadian resident who was living and working in Richmond Hill, Ontario. I am very worried for Saeed’s life since his death sentence was confirmed by Iran’s Supreme Court.

Given the current political tension in Iran, I believe the chances are higher that the Iranian regime may execute Saeed to inflict additional fear onto the Iranian civil society.

You are the Prime Minister of Canada, but you have never spoken out in support of Saeed. I urge you to take immediate action for Saeed before it is too late.

Saeed’s sister lives in Iran. She is terribly scared for her brother’s life. She recently stated publicly that the Canadian government seems to not realize the urgency of the case. Saeed Malekpour’s condition is critical. He is one step from death.

Please read the most current news on Saeed’s horrific and twisted situation: http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/1117318–canadian-resident-faces-execution-in-iran-after-appeal-is-rejected

I hope that you will take firm actions in support of Saeed Malekpour and the other Iranians facing death in Iran on political charges.

Sincerely,

[Insert first and last name]
[Insert city, state/province, and country]

**********************************************
Please send your letter to Stephen Harper via mail, fax, or email: 

Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

Fax: 613-941-6900
E-mail: pm@pm.gc.ca
Also email: pm@pm.gc.ca

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Canadian resident is once again in danger of execution
“International community, react now. Saeed must receive a fair trial!” 


Sadly, as part of a political ploy initiated by the IRGC “Cyber Counterattack” team, Saeed  Malekpour, a 36-year-old Canadian resident and freelance computer programmer, who has been illegally imprisoned in Iran for the past three years, is once again faced with the danger of execution. Last year, Judge Moghiseh in branch 28 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court sentenced Saeed to die based on lengthy and unfounded charges including “Insulting and desecrating the principles of Islam…”.
With great relief, one of Saeed’s lawyers officially announced in summer 2011 that the Supreme Court had “quashed” the death sentence. However, in a turn of events, the Supreme Court declared months later it was unable to reach a voting decision on Saeed’s case due to existing discrepancies in the file that required resolving. The problem for the Supreme Court judges was that they were unable to state affirmatively if Saeed’s trial was fair and legal. Additionally, Saeed’s lawyer had stated in his report to the Supreme Court that his client’s hours of self-incriminating confessions were false and extracted under torture.In order for the discrepancies to be resolved, the Supreme Court returned Saeed’s case file to the same branch and judge in the Revolutionary Court. Judge Moghiseh, ignoring the need to fix the discrepancies, re-issued the death sentence to Saeed in a brief and illegal court hearing. Saeed’s case file was then returned to the Supreme Court for a new decision to be made.

Now, Saeed and his family and friends wait apprehensively. They are hoping that the Supreme Court will act in the legal manner of addressing the unresolved discrepancies. The Supreme Court’s decision can arrive as early as this week.As the internal political and economical tensions rise in Iran, regime authorities are visibly becoming more desperate to carry out new suppressive measures against Iranian citizens. 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 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 him from imminent execution. People like Saeed, who have never received legal treatment by the Iranian Judiciary, risk execution because they are being used as scapegoats to fulfill the oppressive regime’s shameful crusade against humanity.

For the chance to remain alive, Saeed requires the supportive voices of concerned citizens around the world.

CONTACT

Maryam Nayeb Yazdi, 
Saeed Malekpour Campaign Coordinator
Phone  |  +1416-845-0453
Email   | maryam.nayebyazdi {at} gmail.com

Source: https://freesaeedmalekpour.wordpress.com/2012/01/10/canadian-resident-is-once-again-in-danger-of-execution/

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