Pioneer Iran blogger sentenced to 19 years prison

An Iranian court sentenced the founder of one of the first Farsi-language blogs to more than 19 years in prison.

Updated: Sep 29, 2010, 00:13 AM IST

Tehran: An Iranian court sentenced the
founder of one of the first Farsi-language blogs, credited
with sparking the boom in Iranian reform bloggers, to more
than 19 years in prison for his writings, a news web site
reported today.

Iranian-Canadian Hossein Derakhshan, 35, was a
controversial figure among Iran`s blogging community. Writing
his blog from Canada, he was initially a critic of Iran`s
clerical leadership, and in 2006 he visited Israel - Iran`s
archenemy - saying he wanted to act as a bridge between the
two countries` peoples.

But he later became a vocal supporter of hard-line
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, praising him for standing up to
the West and criticizing regime opponents. Derakhshan then
visited Iran in 2008 and was arrested. Over the next two
years, he was often held without communication with family or
lawyers, according to rights groups.

Paris-based advocacy group Reporters Without
Borders said in a statement that "never has such a tough
sentence been handed to a blogger in Iran."

"This case, fabricated from start to finish, shows
that part of the regime wants to make Hossein Derakhshan into
an example."

The group`s statement said Derakhshan was paying
the price for "internal rivalries and struggles for influence
inside the regime. We ask Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to intervene
personally to free him as soon as possible."

Mashreghnews.ir, which is close to Iran`s
presidential office, reported today that Derakhshan was
convicted on charges of cooperation with hostile countries - a
reference to the Israel visit - spreading propaganda against
the ruling establishment, promotion of counterrevolutionary
groups and insulting Islamic thought and religious figures.

The court sentenced him to 19 1/2 years in prison,
the report said, adding that Derakhshan can appeal. It was
unclear if he would benefit from time served.

Derakhshan helped ignite blogging in Iran by
posting simple instructions online on how to create sites in
Farsi in 2001. The flourishing of blogs by Iranians at home
and abroad that resulted gave the country`s reform movement an
online platform that has helped it survive heavy crackdowns at
home - though authorities tried to block many, including
Derakhshan`s.

PTI