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New wave of arrests of netizens

Source: Reporters Without Borders - Thu, 5 Dec 2013 11:57 AM
Author: Reporters Without Borders
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Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Reporters Without Borders condemns a new crackdown on online freedom of information in Iran in which Revolutionary Guards have arrested at least 24 news and information providers in Rafsanjan, Kerman and Tehran in the past two weeks.

On 23 November, Rafsanjan's public prosecutor announced the arrest of seven men and a woman for "insulting society's sacred beliefs and Islamic values online" without naming them or saying exactly what charges had been brought against them. He limited himself to adding: "The intelligence services are monitoring the Internet with great care and are cracking on all possible violations."

The arrest of "16 cyber-activists by the intelligence section of the Revolutionary Guards in the city of Kerman" was confirmed by the city's prosecutor on 4 December, according to Farsnews, a news website allied with the Revolutionary Guards. They are accused of "being in contact with enemy media based abroad with the aim of producing content for educational websites targeted at citizen-journalists," Farsnews added.

Narenji, a website specializing in new technology, had posted a message the day before announcing that "the site can no longer be updated following the arrest of seven members of our staff by Revolutionary Guards." The message was removed a few hours later.

Local journalists said eight young specialists in new media were among those arrested. Ali Asghar Hormand, Abass Vahedi, Alireza Vaziri, Nassim Nikmehr, Malieh Nakehi, Mohammad Hossien Mossazadeh and Sara Sajad Pour were taken to an unknown location after their homes were searched and personal effects were removed.

Ghiti Pourfazel, the lawyer of the family of Sattar Beheshti, a blogger who died in detention in November 2012, meanwhile reported on 3 December that a Tehran court has declared that it is not competent to try the case as one of "involuntary homicide" and that the case has therefore been closed.

The judicial authorities had been putting a lot of pressure on the family and its lawyer to accept the prosecution's classification of his death as "involuntary homicide by accident or negligence."

After reporting the latest ruling, Pourfazel said, "I must now consult the family in order to establish whether they want to initiate proceedings to reopen the case before a criminal court."

Beheshti was found dead in detention centre run by the FTA (the Iranian cyber-police) on 3 November 2012, a few days after his arrest. His body bore the marks of blows. After a year of procedural difficulties, an initial hearing on the cause of his death was to have been held on 27 October but was postponed until an unknown date. Those who tortured Beheshti to death are still unpunished.

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