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Ctrl+Alt+Delete: Iran's Response to the Internet

Motalebi was repeatedly questioned about his newspaper articles, interviews with foreign radio stations, and blog entries. Indeed, his interrogators referred to a printed and marked-up copy of his blog entries.228 At one point, he was interrogated about his blog by Tehran Chief Prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi.229 His interrogators told him that he would be held responsible not only for his own writings on the blog, but for comments posted by visitors in response to his blog entries.230 Because of the sheer number of posts about which he was questioned, he never identified a specific entry or comment that had led to his arrest.231 In fact, it seemed to Motalebi that his arrest was more about sending a message:

I had written in my weblog [that] blogging is a free way for expressing your views and beliefs, without any costs, without any need [for] technical knowledge or financial power, things like that; and the [interrogator] told me: ‘We want to prove that you are wrong. There are several costs; there are very high costs to blogging, and we want to make you an example of that. Yes, we can’t trace every single blogger who criticizes our government, but we can scare them out.’232

Motalebi has described the effects of the psychological torture he suffered:

I don’t know. Maybe I was too weak, but after three weeks in prison, I lost my psychological stability. I heard unreal voices, and I had these conflicting ideas and illusions in my head. Sometimes in the cell, I was interrogating myself in my head [until] my conscience came back and I [would] say [to myself]: ‘This is not true. This is what the interrogators want me to believe.’233

Motalebi’s arrest resulted in an international outcry, including an electronic petition with thousands of signatures.234 The day before Motalebi’s first investigative hearing on April 27, 2003, at the Special Court of Merhabad International Airport, Judge Zafarghandi refused to accept his lawyer’s credentials.235 The Judge rejected the credentials on the grounds that since Motalebi’s case was still in the preliminary stages of investigation, no attorney could take his case.236 After twenty-three days in detention—almost all spent in solitary confinement and undergoing constant interrogation—he was released from prison on May 12 after a family friend posted his 300 million rials (US$40,000) bail.237 Shortly afterward, he left Iran for the Netherlands.238

[228]Glaser, supra note 89.
[229]Id. “One time I was interrogated while blindfolded. Saeed Mortazavi … was in the room and I easily recognized him from his voice … He questioned me about some of my posts on my Weblog and then said, ‘Now we make you an example for other Webloggers and will show that Weblogging is not a free [means of expression] without any cost. We will show that they must pay the expensive costs of their writings in this way.’” Id.
[230]Glaser, supra note 89.
[231]Amnesty Event, supra note 3.
[232]Id.
[233]Id.
[234]Bloggers Unite to Fight, BBC, May 2, 2003, available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/2992401.stm (last visited Apr. 23, 2009).
[235]Vikalat-i Heidari Shahbaz dar Marhalihyyih Muqadamatiyih Parvandihyyih Sina Motalebi Paziruftih Nashud [Heidari Shahbaz Was Rejected as Sina Motalebi’s Lawyer During the Preliminary Stages of His Case], ISNA, 6/2/1382 [Apr. 26, 2003], available at http://isna.ir/ISNA/NewsView.aspx?ID=News-219404 (last visited Apr. 23, 2009) [hereinafter Heidari Was Rejected].
[236]Id. The day after this rejection, Motalebi, speaking in front of Judge Zafarqandi, explained that he did not wish to have a lawyer because his case was in its preliminary stages. Sina Motalebi: Tarjih Midaham Fi’lan Darbarihyyih Mavarid-i Ittihami Suhbat Nakunam; Nimikhaham dar Afkar-i Umumi Pishdavari bih Vujud Ayad [I Do not Wish to Speak About my Case At the Moment; I Do Not Want to Incite Any Public Speculation], ISNA, 7/2/1382 [Apr. 27, 2003], available at http://isna.ir/ISNA/NewsView.aspx?ID=News-219899 (last visited Apr. 23, 2009) [I Do not Wish to Speak].
[237]Amnesty Event, supra note 3.
[238]Price Paid for Blogging, supra note 90.

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Free Speech, Right to Protest, Cyber Journalism, Torture, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment, Punishment, Due Process, Right to an Attorney, Free Association, Political Freedom, Equality Before the Law, Discrimination