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

Two weeks before Mirsayafi’s conviction, Hossein Derakhshan, perhaps the most prominent Iranian blogger, returned to Tehran after spending years in Canada and England.337 In 2007, after pointing out that Arash Sigarchi’s final sentence was based on his interview with Radio Farda, Derakshan had claimed that Iran did not have a blogger-specific arrest policy:

I myself have experienced [this] intolerant government—all websites I run, including my blogs, are filtered and I was also detained and forced to sign an apology over my blog posts before I was allowed to leave Iran in June 2005. … Yes, the government has indeed filtered a lot of political websites, but so has UAE, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Pakistan, Egypt and many other US allies. But Iran doesn't have a policy of imprisoning young men and women for a few words in their small blogs.338

On his blog, Derakhshan pronounced that he was enjoying his stay in Iran immensely. However, on November 1, 2008, he was arrested and taken to an undisclosed location.339 News of his arrest was slow to leak because his family and friends did not wish to complicate Derakhshan’s situation.340 Even after his family confirmed his arrest, for two months the Judiciary denied having custody of him. However, Jahan News, a conservative website close to Tehran’s intelligence community, not only reported on his arrest but also claimed that Derakhshan had already confessed to spying for Israel.341

Derakhshan’s arrest may have been triggered by his visit to Israel on his way to Iran—an action he had recognized was considered illegal by the Islamic Republic. It should be noted, however, that when announcing his arrest on December 30, the Judiciary spokesperson, Dr. Alireza Jamshidi, explained that Derakhshan was not being charged with crimes related to espionage or travel violations. Rather, he would be charged with offenses related to his sacrilegious comments regarding the Holy Imams.342 Though he has been allowed to contact his family on several occasions, Derakhshan remains in custody.

4.4. Legal Analysis of Arrests, Detention and Torture of Internet Users

The Islamic Republic’s arrest, detention and torture of cyber-journalists and bloggers violates Iran’s obligations under the Iranian Constitution and international law. As described above and in the IHRDC’s report Covert Terror: Iran’s Parallel Intelligence Apparatus, the Islamic Republic not only beats and flogs detainees but employs sophisticated methods of torture and intimidation. These methods include sleep deprivation, mock executions, foot lashings, and solitary confinement in very tiny cells.343

Torture is clearly forbidden under international and Iranian law. Article 7 of the ICCPR, ratified by Iran, provides that: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment …” The Iranian Constitution requires law enforcement authorities to protect citizens’ freedom from torture and cruel and inhuman treatment.344

Furthermore, the arbitrary arrests and detention deny bloggers the due process rights that are guaranteed by Iranian and international law. Article 9 of the ICCPR outlines Iran’s duty to provide due process before it limits, interferes with, or otherwise extinguishes an individual’s right to liberty. Article 9(2) requires government agents to promptly inform the accused of the reasons for his arrest at the time of arrest,345 and Article 9(3) obligates the state to promptly bring the accused before a judge so that he shall be subject to trial within “a reasonable time.” Article 9(3) also provides that “it shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody.”346

[337]See generally, Hosseign Derakhshan blog, www.Hoder.com.
[338]Hossein Derakhshan, Cut the Bias, THE GUARDIAN, May 7, 2007, available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2007/may/07/cutthebias (last visited Apr. 26, 2009).
[339]Press Release, Incommunicado detention/fear of torture or other ill-treatment/possible prisoner of conscience, Amnesty International (Dec. 15, 2008), available at http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/MDE13/178/2008/en/cfe30c0e-cace-11dda6a3- 63b538f8816c/mde131782008en.html (last visited Apr. 26, 2009).
[340]Posting of Cyrus Farivar to Cyrusfarivar.com, available at http://cyrusfarivar.com/blog/?p=1841 (Dec. 9, 2008) (last visited Apr. 26, 2009) (relaying information provided by a friend of the Derakhshan family).
[341]Michael Theodoulou, Iranian ‘Blogfather’ Hossein Derakhshan is Arrested on Charge of Spying for Israel, TIMES ONLINE, Nov. 20, 2008, available at http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article5190462.ece (last visited Apr. 26, 2009).
[342]Quvvihyyih Qaza’i Bazdasht-i Hossein Derakhshan ra Ta’id Kard [The Judiciary Confirms Hossein Derakhshan’s Arrest], BBC PERSIAN, 10/9/1387 [Dec. 30, 2008], available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/persian/iran/2008/12/081230_ag_jb_ derakhshan.shtml (last visited Apr. 26, 2009).
[343]See EBADI, supra note 56, at 134; see generally IRAN HUMAN RIGHTS DOCUMENTATION CENTER, COVERT TERROR: IRAN’S PARALLEL INTELLIGENCE APPARATUS (2009).
[344]IRANIAN CONST., supra note 48, art. 38.
[345]ICCPR, supra note 24, art. 9(2). Article 9(2) provides that “[a]nyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him.” The requirement to state the nature and cause of the allegation goes beyond mere statement of the charge; instead, it requires that the prosecutor provide not only the exact legal description of the offense but also the facts which gave rise to the charge.
[346]Id. art. 9(3). Article 9(3) provides that “anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release.”

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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