Saturday, February 11, 2006

New Accusations Against Web-bloggers

Shahram Rafizadeh, Rooz Online:
While the filtering of internet sites has dramatically increased in Iran, Farid Modaressi and Hussein Abdollahpour, two web-bloggers from the religious city of Qom have been charged with spreading propaganda against the Islamic regime while communicating with Ahmad Shamlou, Iran’s prominent poet who passed away 5 years ago and Ayatollah Montazeri, the senior Qom cleric who was once the second most senior political figure after ayatollah Khomeini, until he fell out of favor and was put under house arrest. The court looking into the webloggers case claims that contacts with such anti-revolutionary individuals (Shamlou and Montazeri) are against the laws of the country. READ MORE

In another similar imprisonment, Arash Sigarchi a web-blogger who was sentenced to 14 years of prison was recently transferred to Rasht prison to spend his 3-year imprisonment.

Among those arrested in the wave of last year’s crackdowns on bloggers in Iran, were Farid Modaressi, Hussein Abdollahpour, Hamed Mottaghi and Masoud Rahbari. Other bloggers in other cities such as Arash Sigarichi, Mohammad Reza NasabAbdollahi and Mojtaba Samieenejad were also arrested following their support and sympathy for their imprisoned friends.

Mistreatment, arrest and torture of internet activists has sparked angry reactions of human rights activists and even some Iranian government officials. The persistence of an official investigative presidential committee created during former president Khatami's government has forced judicial officials to acknowledge the mistreatment and excesses of imprisoned web-bloggers.

In his court hearing in Qom, Fardi Modaressi explained in detail the inhumane mistreatment that he had received in prison to the shocking ears of the listeners. He accused Qom judiciary officials of torturing him to extract fake confessions which were later published in pro-government hardline newspapers. Based on these forced confessions, the radical officials in the Qom judiciary have put Madaressi on trial and accused him of spreading propaganda against the Islamic state.

The crackdown on bloggers has again intensified in recent months. Many popular and professional internet sites have been filtered to deny access to Iranians. Arash Sigarchi, the editor of Gilan daily and supporter of imprisoned bloggers was arrested and imprisoned recently. Mojtaba Samieenejad was also charged and sentenced to prison for “offending religious beliefs” in his blog and is spending his two-year sentence in prison for it.

Following an investigation conducted by an institute affiliated to the hardline ministry of culture, a number of bloggers have shut down their sites in recent weeks without specifying their reasons. The study has divided Iranian bloggers into two groups of supporters and opponents of the Islamic regime. The report claims that the blogs that support the Islamic regime are more popular among web users. The research neglects to mention the harsh and inhuman mistreatment of the arrested webloggers whose conditions have even brought tears to listening government officials.