Iranian Court Upholds Death Sentence For Web DeveloperBy: Drew Bowling - January 20, 2012
The highest court in Iran has upheld a death sentence for a web developer for “being part of a ‘network of decadence on the Internet.'”
Specifically, the Iran’s Supreme Court maintains, is that Saeed Malekpour, a Iranian-born 35-year-old who is a permanent resident of Canada, developed and promoted porn sites. Malekpour was visiting Iran to visit his ailing father when he was detained by a plain-clothes officer upon arriving to the country. The Guardian reports that his connection to the porn sites is questionable as the site managers were using photo-loading software Malekpour developed. Malekpour says that they used his software without his knowledge yet Iran extracted a televised confession from Malekpour that formed the basis for his conviction. Malekpour, however, recanted his confession in a letter he wrote in prison and stated that his confession had been made “under duress” (A link and excerpt of Malekpour’s letter can be found below).
Radio Free Europe spoke to Malekpour’s sister, Maryam Malekpour, after Iran confirmed his death sentence.
“All of Saeed’s activities were within the law,” Maryam Malekpour said. “He didn’t commit anything illegal. Saeed just wrote a computer program that could have been used by these immoral websites or any other website. Unfortunately, without his knowledge, the program was sold and used to upload photos on these immoral websites.”
Maryam Malekpour went on to tell Radio Free Europe that she found the court process to be a farce as it lacked a computer specialist who could corroborate her brother’s defense. Additionally, she agrees that his confession is counterfeit. “All the evidence they have against him is from his confessions,” she said told Radio Free Europe. “Saeed was in solitary confinement for about one and a half years and was under extreme physical and emotional pressure. For sure, anyone who is in this condition and wants it to end will confess to anything they’re asked.”
In order to help spread information about Saeed Malekpour throughout the Internet, United for Iran put together a short video about Malekpour’s plight:
Malekpour’s fate within the Iranian legal system has been tumultuous and unpredictable since his arrest. Iran Human Rights Voice issued a press release in summer 2011 “the Supreme Court had ‘quashed the death sentence.” The release continues, though, and says that “the Supreme Court declared months later it was unable to reach a voting decision on Saeed’s case due to existing discrepancies in the file that required resolving.” Eventually, after deciding to ignore the fact that the confessions were falsified or and even being unable to determine whether the trial was fair, one Iranian judge re-issued the death sentence.
On Twitter, supporters posted articles and implored others to take action in order to save Malekpour’s life.
As mentioned already, Persian2English provided a translation of a letter that Malekpour wrote last March detailing the physical and psychological torture he has been subjected to since his “arrest”:
My name is Saeed Malekpour. I was arrested on October 4, 2008 near Vanak Square (in northern Tehran) by plainclothes agents who did not present an arrest warrant or identification. The arrest resembled an abduction. Afterwards, I was handcuffed, blindfolded and placed in the back of a Sedan. A heavy-set agent leaned his weight on me by positioning his elbow on my neck, and forcing my head down throughout the ride. They transferred me to an undisclosed location they called the “technical office.” When we arrived, a few agents severely beat me and verbally abused me. While I was handcuffed and blindfolded, they forced me to sign a few forms that I was unable to read. As a result of the physical assault, my neck was aching for several days and my face was swollen from the punches, slaps, and kicks. That night, I was transferred to ward 2-A of Evin prison. I was placed in a solitary cell 2m X 1.7m (6’2? X 5’8?) wide. I was only allowed to leave the cell twice a day at specified times for some fresh air. However, I was blindfolded during the times I left the cell. The only time I was allowed to remove the blindfold was in my cell.
On one particular day, One of those very days, as a result of being kicked, punched, and lashed with cables on my head and face, my face became very swollen. I lost consciousness several times, but each time they would wake me up by splashing water on my face [and continued with the torture]. That night, they returned me to my cell. At the end of the night, I realized my ear was bleeding. I banged on the door of my cell, but nobody came. The next day, while half of my body was paralyzed, and I was unable to move, they took me to the Evin prison clinic. The doctor, after seeing my condition, emphasized that I should be transferred to a hospital. However, I was returned to my cell instead, and I was left on my own until 9:00pm. Three guards eventually transferred me to Baghiatollah hospital.
On our way to the hospital, the guards told me I was not allowed to give my real name, and ordered me to use the alias Mohammad Saeedi. They threatened me with severe torture if I did not follow their orders.