Reporter Cyrus Farivar has an update on the plight of Hossein Derakhshan, a pioneer of the Iranian blogosphere. He was arrested in November 2008 during a visit back to Iran.
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KATY CLARK: I’m Katy Clark and this is The World. A blogger named Hossein Derakhshan was arrested in Tehran on November 1, 2008. He’d only been in Iran for two months. Derakhshan is a dual citizen of Iran and Canada. While in Toronto in 2001 he created one of the first Persian-language blogs and became a pioneer of the Iranian blogoshpere. It’s been a year since his arrest but details of his case are still murky. Iran has said little about it and his family has largely kept silent. Until now. Cyrus Farivar reports.
CYRUS FARIVAR: Last week Hossein’s father, Hassan Derakhshan, published an open letter in the Iranian reformist newspaper Salaam. It was addressed to the new head of the Iranian judiciary system. In it he said the family has only had just two short meetings with Hossein and they have no information about his legal situation. And that’s why a year after his brother’s arrest Hamed Derakhshan began speaking to the press. In an interview with The World Hamed Derakhshan told me he can’t afford to be silent anymore.
HAMED DERAKHSHAN: They have told us that it would be better for him. His case would be processed faster if there is no unwanted attention to it. But now I feel that you know I’ve got to do something about it.
FARIVAR: Hamed Derakhshan says his family still has very little information about his brother. They don’t even know what prison he’s being held in.
HAMED DERAKHSHAN: We don’t officially know what his charges are. There were rumors in the beginning that his charges are insulting religious figures. And then we heard about spying for Israel. But officially, now we don’t know what they are.
FARIVAR: With no real information out there, rumors have rampant in the Persian-language internet. Some even speculate that Hossein Derakhshan was collaborating with the Iranian government and perhaps spying for them. His brother Hamed Derakhshan denies these charges and says that the family continues to press authorities for more information. The Iranian government isn’t speaking about Hossein Derakhshan’s case and the Canadian government isn’t saying much either. Canadian officials declined to speak on tape about the case. But Rodney Moore, of the Office of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, sent an e-mail saying Canada continues to press for access to Hossein Derakhshan under international law. He added that Derakhshan’s dual nationality makes things complicated for them. And there are other complications in the case. Before he left for Iran in 2008, Derakhshan said something a little surprising to family and friends. One of them was Pedram Moallemian, an Iranian-Canadian living in Los Angeles.
PEDRAM MOALLEMIAN: He was convinced that the Iranian government and the judiciary system is a fair and adequate one and in case he was arrested he would be fairly treated and represented and he made it very clear that if he is arrested he does not want a big noise made about it outside.
FARIVAR: In his early years as a blogger Derakhshan leaned more towards Iran’s Reformist camp. He initially wanted to build bridges between Iran and the West. He even traveled to Israel on his Canadian passport in 2006. But Derakhshan began to change his political views. Derakhshan ultimately began supporting Iran’s hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and his policies says Omid Memarian, an Iran analyst with Human Rights Watch in San Francisco.
OMID MEMARIAN: I think Hossein was smarter than that to become a fan of Ahmadinejad. But he was. He was really into the new government and defending their policies and he was after everybody. Like every single person who was into defending human rights issues, like Shirin Ebadi, a Nobel laureate.
FARIVAR: Derakhshan didn’t just go after Shirin Ebadi. He wrote inflammatory things in his blog about anyone he didn’t agree with. He even accused Memarian of converting to Christianity which is forbidden under Islamic law. In 2007, Derakhshan got slapped with a $2 million libel case. But Memarian says none of this should stop human rights advocates from trying to defend Derakhshan’s rights.
MEMARIAN: Hossein’s case is a human rights case. You know, no matter what Hossein did and no matter what damages he created for people, he has been disappeared for almost a year. He’s trapped and he needs help.
FARIVAR: At this point Derakhshan doesn’t have many friends left who are publicly willing to fight for him. For now it appears Derakhshan will likely continue to remain in an unknown Tehran prison. For The World I’m Cyrus Farivar.
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