Iran Human RightsAppeal court confirms prison for cyber-dissident while blogger is...

Appeal court confirms prison for cyber-dissident while blogger is reimprisoned

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Reporters Without Borders: Condemning the imprisonment of two Iranian Internet users in the past 10 days, Reporters Without Borders said Iran was undergoing the Middle East’s biggest-ever crackdown on online free expression. Cyber-dissident Mojtaba Lotfi was imprisoned on 5 February after an appeal court confirmed a sentence of three years and 10 months in prison for posting “lies” on the Internet. Reporters Without Borders

Condemning the imprisonment of two Iranian Internet users in the past 10 days, Reporters Without Borders said Iran was undergoing the Middle East’s biggest-ever crackdown on online free expression.

Cyber-dissident Mojtaba Lotfi was imprisoned on 5 February after an appeal court confirmed a sentence of three years and 10 months in prison for posting “lies” on the Internet. Blogger Motjaba Saminejad, who was freed on bail of 500 million rials (43,000 euros) at the end of January, was reimprisoned on 12 February when a judge doubled the bail, making it impossible for him to raise the money.

“How can Iranian officials parade at a UN summit on the Internet at the same time as they are jailing bloggers ?” Reporters Without Borders asked, referring to Iran’s participation in a preparatory meeting of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in two days’ time.

“We will go to this meeting to ask them to free the cyber-dissident and two bloggers who are in prison in Iran,” the press freedom organization said. “We will also remind them that they will have to respect the undertaking given during the first WSIS stage, namely respect for article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

The sentence of three years and 10 months that was upheld on appeal was originally imposed on Lotfi, a theology student from the holy city of Qom, by a lower court on 14 August. But he was allowed to remain free at the time after paying bail of 650 million rial (55,000 euros).

Lotfi used to be a journalist with the pro-reform daily Khordad, which the authorities closed in 2000. He was arrested for the first time in May 2004 and imprisoned in Qom after posting an article entitled “Respect for human rights in cases involving the clergy” on www.naqshineh.com, a news site about Qom. Naqshineh is also being prosecuted, above all because of its articles on the last legislative elections, and it has been blocked since March 2004 on the orders of the Qom authorities.

Saminejad was told his bail had been raised to 1 billion rials when he was summoned by the Tehran prosecutor’s office for a hearing on 12 February.

He was first arrested in November 2004 for reporting the arrests of three fellow bloggers in his former blog (http://man-namanam.blogspot.com). While detained, his blog address was transferred to the blog of a group of hackers linked to the Iranian radical Islamist movement Hezbollah (http://irongroup.blogspot.com/). After his release, he relaunched his blog using a new address (http://8mdr8.blogspot.com), which may have the reason for his re-arrest.

The other blogger currently in prison is journalist Arash Sigarchi, who was arrested on 17 January in the northern city of Rashat for keeping a banned blog called Panhjareh Eltehab (The Window of Anxiety), in which he reported the recent arrests of cyber-journalists and bloggers.

The second stage of the WSIS is being organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) under UN aegis in Tunis in November (see the official site : www.wsis.org). A preparatory meeting (prep com) is taking place in Geneva from 17 to 25 February.

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