A Canadian-Iranian writer credited with starting the blogging movement in Iran faces the death penalty over his work, two watchdog groups said Sept. 23. Hossein Derakhshan was arrested after returning to Iran in November 2008 and charged with "collaborating with enemy states, creating propaganda against the Islamic regime, insulting religious sanctity, and creating propaganda for anti-revolutionary groups," according to the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) and PEN Canada. According to the two organizations, prosecutors are now calling for Derakhshan to face the death penalty after he was convicted by Tehran's revolutionary court earlier this year. "The proposed sentence is a travesty," said CJFE president Arnold Amber, calling on the Canadian government to intervene. (AFP, Sept. 23)
A judge from Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court of Iran on Sept. 18 sentenced Shiva Nazar Ahari, a journalist arrested following the 2009 presidential election, to six years in prison. Ahari was sentenced to three-and-half-years for warring against God, known in Islamic law as moharebeh, two years for conspiracy to commit a crime and six months for propaganda against the government. In addition to the jail sentence, Ahari was also ordered to pay a $400 fine or face 74 lashes. Ahari's conviction on the charge of moharebeh could have resulted in the death penalty. Her lawyer has stated that he will appeal the sentence.
From the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Sept. 5:
Release Human Rights Lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh
The International Campaign for Human Right in Iran called for the immediate release of prominent human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, who was arrested at Evin prison on 4 September 2010, and for all charges against her to be dropped.
All of a sudden everybody's talking about this. On Aug. 12 the Jerusalem Post noted a story by Jeffrey Goldberg in the current issue of The Atlantic, "The Point of No Return," predicting an Israeli attack on Iran by the end of the year. After speaking with 40 Israeli, Arab and US officials (past and present), Goldberg writes that "based on my conversations with Israeli decision-makers, this period of forbearance, in which Netanyahu waits to see if the West's nonmilitary methods can stop Iran, will come to an end this December." He asserts that the Pentagon has issued a directive not to shoot down Israeli planes in Iraqi airspace.
A military court in Iran has ordered the suspension of three top judiciary officials in connection with last year's torture deaths of three detained protesters, the Mehr News Agency reported Aug. 23. The three victims, Mohammad Kamrani, Amir Javadi-far and Mohsen Ruholamini, were tortured and beaten to death at the Kahrizak detention center after being arrested during anti-government protests that followed last year's disputed presidential election. According to an anonymous source, three unidentified officials at the Tehran prosecutor's office have been suspended and stripped of their judicial immunity after a lengthy investigation into the case. The move clears the way for the three officials to face trial.
We truly hate to say it, but Iran's protestations that it is seeking nuclear power purely for peaceful purposes are starting to ring a little hollow. The same day Iranian and Russian engineers began loading uranium fuel into the Bushehr nuclear power plant, Iran's military announces the development of a prototype long-range unmanned bomber, dubbed the Karrar. Reuters Aug. 22 reports that in a speech at the unveiling ceremony, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "said Iran should seek the ability to make pre-emptive strikes against a perceived threat, although he said it would never strike first." This is of course exactly the kind of Orwellian doublethink that characterized the Bush administration.
An Iranian court on Aug. 8 sentenced seven Baha'i leaders to 20-year prison terms on charges of espionage, propaganda activities against the Islamic order, and cooperation with Israel. All seven have denied the charges and have appealed the decision. The seven, all members of a national coordination committee for the Baha'i community in Iran, were arrested in 2008. Their arrest and subsequent trial prompted international criticism and calls for their release from the US government, UN rights bodies and governments worldwide. There are 300,000 Baha'i living in Iran, comprising Iran's largest non-Muslim minority. There are an estimated seven million members worldwide. The religion is considered heretical by the Iranian government, and the Baha'i have also faced legal restrictions on their activities in Egypt since the 1960s.
For the past two weeks, 17 political prisoners in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison have been on hunger strike to protest constant abuse; solitary confinement; lack of phone call rights and family visits; and lack of access to medical care, books and newspapers. One hunger striker, photojournalist Babak Bordbar, has been released. The remaining strikers include student activist Majid Tavakoli and human rights activist Koohyar Goodarzi. In addition to protests by the families of these prisoners, a group of political prisoners including Mansour Ossanloo of the Tehran Bus Workers Union and journalist Issa Saharkhiz have issued an open letter to urge an end their hunger strike. The letter states that "the democracy-seeking Green Movement needs capable forces and prolific youth like you to build a free Iran."