Iran: Serious concern for detained journalist

English PEN is seriously concerned about the detention of Iranian-Canadian journalist and weblogger Hossein Derakhshan, who has been held since 1 November 2008. The reason for his detention remains unclear, and he is not thought to have been formally charged. His whereabouts are unknown.

According to our information, Hossein Derakhshan was arrested at his family home in Tehran on 1 November 2008 shortly after returning to Iran from several years living in Canada and the United Kingdom. The authorities did not officially acknowledge his detention until 30 December 2008. Initial reports suggested that he was accused of ‘spying for Israel’, apparently for a highly publicised trip he made to Israel – with whom Iran has no diplomatic relations – in 2006, travelling on a Canadian passport. He declared that this trip was to show his “20,000 daily Iranian readers what Israel really looks like and how people live there”. He also wanted to “humanise” Iranians for Israelis. However, it has also been suggested that he faces accusations of ‘insulting religion’ in his weblogs.

Background: Nicknamed ‘the Blogfather’, thirty-three year-old Hossein Derakhshan is known for pioneering ‘blogging’ in Iran with his Internet diaries, in both English and Farsi, which have previously been critical of the Iranian authorities, although more recently has been sympathetic to President Ahmadinajad. He is said to be a controversial figure with a turbulent career. The Times Online gives the following background:

Mr Derakshahn moved to Canada in 2000 with his Iranian-Canadian wife from who he has since split, after reformist newspapers for which he wrote in Tehran were closed by hardline opponents of the moderate former Iranian president, Mohammad Khatami. From Toronto in 2001 he began blogging in Farsi and English and devised a simple but groundbreaking way to show Persian letters and characters on the Internet – a protocol that enabled Iran to become one of the world’s most prolific blogging nations.

 

Until his recent move home, Mr Derakhshan had returned only once to Iran since emigrating. Visiting to cover presidential elections in 2005, he was prevented from leaving the country for a week and interrogated by police. They told him that his blog was addressing too many taboo subjects and chided him for helping Iranians to skirt Internet censorship. He was allowed to leave after being forced to sign an apology.  (For full article go to http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article5190462.ece)

Hossein Derakhshan is held incommunicado at an unknown location, and there are mounting concerns for his well-being. English PEN fears that he may be held solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to free expression, and therefore in violation of Article 19 of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a signatory. We are therefore calling for his immediate and unconditional release and also seeking assurances of his well-being as a matter of urgency.

Furthermore, English PEN is alarmed by an apparent crackdown on dissent in recent weeks, including the harassment of writer, human rights defender and Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi, who in mid-December condemned Derakhshan’s arrest.

Hossein Derakhshan’s English-language weblog: http://www.hoder.com/weblog/

Please send appeals:

– Expressing serious concern about the detention of journalist and weblogger Hossein Derakhshan, and calling for his immediate and unconditional release if held in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a signatory;

– Seeking assurances of his well-being as a matter of urgency;
– Urging that he is granted access to his family and legal representation immediately.

Appeals to:

Head of the Judiciary
His Excellency Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi
Howzeh Riyasat-e Qoveh Qazaiyeh/Office of the Head of the Judiciary
Pasteur St., Vali Asr Ave., south of Serah-e Jomhouri, Tehran 1316814737
Islamic Republic of Iran.
Email:   info@dadgostary-tehran.ir (in the subject line write: FAO Ayatollah Shahroudi)
Salutation: Your Excellency

Minister of Intelligence Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie
Ministry of Intelligence,
Second Negarestan Street,
Pasdaran Avenue,
Tehran,
Islamic Republic of Iran.
Salutation: Your Excellency

Copies to:


Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic
His Excellency Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei,
The Office of the Supreme Leader
Islamic Republic Street – Shahid Keshvar Doust Street
Tehran,
Islamic Republic of Iran
Email: info@leader.ir or istiftaa@wilayah.org
Salutation: Your Excellency

 
His Excellency Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
The Presidency,
Palestine Avenue,
Azerbaijan Intersection,
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Fax: Via Foreign Ministry: 98 21 6 674 790
(mark: “Please forward to H.E. President Ahmadinejad”)
Email: dr-ahmadinejad@president.ir
via website: www.president.ir/email

If possible, please send a copy of your appeal to the diplomatic representative for Iran in your country:

His Excellency Mr Rasoul Movahedian
Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran
16 Prince’s Gate
London SW7 1PT 

Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/bulletins/iranseriousconcernfordetainedjournalist/

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