Iran: Hossein Derakhshan trial begins
After 21 months, the trial of Iran's blogfather, controversial blogger Hossein Derakhshan finally begins
Plus Iran's satellite silence, Irena Maryniak talks to Sadeq Saba, head of BBC Persia
25 Jun 10

Free Hoder

After 21 months being in jail, controversial blogger Hossein Derakhshan, (aka Hoder) finally faced trial on 23 June, writes Hamid Tehrani

Iran’s semi-official news agency Fars [Farsi] claims the charges against Derakhshan are working with “hostile” states, propaganda against the Islamic regime, propaganda in favor of anti-revolutionary groups, insulting religious sanctities, and launching and managing “obscene” websites.

Abolqasem Salavati has been identified as the presiding judge. Salavati oversaw some of the major post-election trials of 2009. In those cases, Salavati got a chance to sit in judgment over some of Iran’s most prominent political figures, including former vice president Mohammad Ali Abtahi, former deputy speaker of parliament Behzad Nabavi, former government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh, and a number of other former government officials.

Fars does not provide specific information about the trial except that the prosecutor’s representative read out a long list of charges in the presence of Hossein’s family, his lawyer and the judge.

Conservative Jahan News [Farsi], published the same information as Fars, but also quoted some of Derakhshan’s blog posts to demonstrate his support for reformists and his hostility to some of Iranian leaders including Ayatholah Khamenei, Ayatholah Mesbah Yazdi and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Jahan News adds that it cannot publish the insults regarding religious figures. But what the site calls “insults” are a few points of view and critiques. Jahan omits to mention that for more than a year before traveling back to Iran Hossein was a supporter of Ahmadinejad.

Cyrus Farivar, a German-based journalist who has followed the case closely, managed to get this quote via email from a source close to Derakhshan’s family:

“One trial session was held and although no family members were allowed in, but the family remains optimistic that no serious issues exist in his case. Plus, considering the fact that he has already served a long time in prison, most of which has been in solitary confinement, the family doesn’t expect a longer jail sentence. There are more court sessions to be held before the final verdict is out.”

The reasons for Hoder’s initial arrest remain unclear, but some speculate that his two (highly publicised) trips to Israel were behind it.

Iranian Blogger Z8tun summed up the situation 21 months ago: “other Iranians have been caught visiting Israel, but were released after a few hours of interrogation. Some speculate that Derakhshan, who in recent years became a supporter of President Ahmadinejad’s government, was arrested because he insulted some religious leaders in the country. He has himself argued in Western media, despite multiple testimonies of jailed bloggers, that nobody goes to jail in Iran because of the content of their blog.”

The Islamic Republic has cracked down on the blogosphere in recent years, and there are several other bloggers in jail in Iran including human rights activist Shiva Nazar Ahari. On 18 March 2009 Omid Reza Mir Sayafi became the first blogger to die in suspicious circumstances in an Iranian prison.

Campaign for Derakhshan’s release through the Free Hoder Facebook page

Hamid Tehrani, Iran Editor of Global Voices