A Canadian-Iranian credited with starting the blogging movement in Iran has been sentenced to more than 19 years in prison, a media report said on Tuesday.
Hossein Derakhshan, 35, was convicted of collaborating with “enemy states” and of “propaganda against the Islamic system,” the conservative Mashreghnews Web site reported, quoting a judicial source.
The court also found him guilty of “promoting counter-revolutionary cells and insulting Islamic sanctities.”
In 2001, Derakhshan sparked a revolution on the Internet in Iran by posting precise instructions on how to set up Persian-language blogs.
He visited Iran’s arch-foe Israel on his Canadian passport in 2006. He chronicled his experience on his Persian and English-language blogs, saying he sought to show Israelis and Iranians a different image of each country.
He was arrested after returning to Iran in November 2008.
Derakhshan was handed a 19-and-a-half-year sentence and also banned from media activity for five years, the Web site reported without clarifying if that was from the time of his eventual release.
Fars news agency quoted another source as confirming the ruling, adding Derakhshan may appeal.
The Canadian government and global media watchdog Reporters without Borders strongly condemned the ruling.
“We are deeply concerned about the news of this severe sentence,” Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said. “If true, this is completely unacceptable and unjustifiable.”
“No one should be punished anywhere for simply exercising one’s inherent right to freedom of expression,” he said, adding that “Iran must release him.”
Reporters Without Borders said it was “outraged” by the sentence and called for him to be freed.
In related developments, Iran has banned two newspapers for insulting political and religious figures in a continued crackdown on dissent more than a year after a disputed presidential election.
The news came a day after a court ordered the dissolution of two leading reformist political parties and at a time when leading opposition figures say their houses are coming under sporadic attack.
“Bahar Zanjan [weekly] has been banned for publishing articles insulting the country’s officials and some which are contrary to public morals,” Iranian Deputy Culture Minister Mohammed Ali Ramin was quoted as saying in Sharq daily.
Andishe-ye No, a pro-reform daily, was also closed under a law that prohibits insulting Iran’s supreme leader or other senior clerics with the revered status of “source of emulation.”
The managing director of Bahar Zanjan plans to appeal the ban that he said was based on “a clear lie and false accusation,” according to reformist Web site Kalame.