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Iran: Jailed blogger, Hossein Derakhshan (“Hoder”) may face death penalty

A reliable source has told Global Voices that Tehran's prosecutor is seeking the death penalty for jailed Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan (also known as “Hoder”). The presiding judge, named Salavati, has not yet ruled in the case. Derakhshan has been accused of “collaborating with enemy states, creating propaganda against the Islamic regime, insulting religious sanctity, and creating propaganda for anti-revolutionary groups.” He was arrested 22 months ago, and his trial began in June 2010.

The reasons for Hoder’s initial arrest upon his return to Iran from Canada in 2008 remain unclear, but many speculated that his two (highly publicised) trips to Israel were the primary reason.

Derakhshan holds a Canadian passport, but Iran does not recognize dual citizenship and visiting Israel is frowned upon by the government.

Confusing in this case, is that Hoder gained worldwide notoriety as a leading Iranian blogger and free speech activist (even blogging for Global Voices in 2004 and 2005). Later he changed tacks and wrote favorably of President Mahmoud Ahmedinajhad's policies regarding the United States, nuclear weapons, Israel, and even intolerance for public dissent from human rights activists.

In April of 2009, Iranian president, President Ahmadinejad, issued a letter calling for Hossein Derakhshan’s case to be processed in a timely and legal fashion. The Canadian government has not been publicly vocal on Derakhshan's case. A Free Hoder blog was created by online free speech activists shortly after his arrest in 2008.

On Twitter, Sanam Dolatshahi tweeted the news of a possible death penalty, and a site in Persian called Kamtarin has also mentioned it, noting that despite previous rumors that Derakhshan was being held for “spying” in Israel this is apparently not one of the accusations for which the prosecutor seeks his death.

In a blog created by Derakhshan's family, Edalat Baraye Hossein Derakhshan (meaning justice for Hossein Derakhshan) there are still no reports or updates on this topic. The last post on the family blog is dated August 15, and says that Hossein's trial ended weeks ago [Fa]:

We are waiting for the verdict. He had not got even one week vacation out of prison to come home… It is the second Ramadan that he is not at home… He told us the quality of food since last Ramadan became better in prison… His mother is very worried… It is said this month God answers the prayers easier… Please do not forget our Hossein.

Iranian Blogger Z8tun summed up [fa] the situation about two years ago:

“Other Iranians have been caught visiting Israel, but were released after a few hours of interrogation. Some speculate that Derakhshan, who in recent years became a supporter of President Ahmadinejad’s government, was arrested because he insulted some religious leaders in the country. He has himself argued in Western media, despite multiple testimonies of jailed bloggers, that nobody goes to jail in Iran because of the content of their blog.”

The Islamic Republic has cracked down on the blogosphere in recent years, and there are several other bloggers sentenced to prison in Iran including human rights activist Shiva Nazar Ahari. On 18 March 2009, Omid Reza Mir Sayafi became the first blogger to die in suspicious circumstances in an Iranian prison.

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