Iranian prosecutors demand death penalty for 'blogfather'

Written by: Abdul Nisar
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Tehran, Sept 24 (ANI): Iranian prosecutors have demanded the death penalty for a Canadian-Iranian writer, Hossein Derakhshan, credited with starting the blogging movement in the country, and who was reportedly put on secret trial earlier this year, over his work.

Derakhshan won his nickname "blogfather" after developing a blog platform for Persian characters that was widely copied by online activists and commentators.

According to The Telegraph, during his stay in Canada and Britain, Derakhshan became popular as a defender of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, against attacks from his many critics in the West.

He, however, went on a one-man peace mission to Israel, trying to show an Israeli perspective on conflicts in the Middle East to Iranians and also to "humanise" Iranians for his hosts.

He was arrested within weeks of his voluntary return to Iran in 2008. His alleged offences include working with "hostile" governments, propaganda against the Islamic establishment, propaganda in favour of anti-revolutionary groups, and insulting religious sanctities.

Derakhshan's mother, Ozra Kiarashpour, has confirmed that the trial had taken place behind closed doors and that although no sentence had yet been handed down, the prosecutor had sought the death penalty.

"The prosecutor has asked for the severest sentence possible to punish Hossein and make an example of him. We can't do anything about the judge's ruling except to pray," Kiarashpour said.

A death penalty would be unusual although writers and dissidents have been sentenced to lengthy jail terms. In the last week, two dissident journalists have been sentenced to six years' jail on similar charges, the paper said.

Derakhshan's family speculates that he might have been victim of a power struggle in the country's ruling conservative faction, given that he was arrested so soon after praising the regime.

He had also received a guarantee from the High Council of Iranian Affairs Abroad that he would be safe if he returned.

After his return to the country, he tweeted that he "loved being in Iran" and was "generally impressed". Earlier, he had defended Iran's right to develop nuclear weapons in self-defence, saying he would defend the country against any military assault. (ANI)

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