Iranian-Canadian Blogger Could Face Death Penalty

From The Gazette:
Canadian-Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan may face the death sentence, two Canadian freedom of expression organizations confirmed Tuesday.

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) and PEN Canada, an international organization working for writers who are persecuted, imprisoned and exiled, learned from Derakhshan's family that the Iranian prosecutor in his case has called for the death penalty.

Hossein 'Hoder' Derakhshan, often nicknamed the Iranian "blogfather," has been in an Iranian prison since he was arrested when he returned to the country on Nov. 1, 2008. The charges against Derakhshan include "collaborating with enemy states, creating propaganda against the Islamic regime, insulting religious sanctity, and creating propaganda for anti-revolutionary groups," the organizations said in a news release.

His trial began three months ago.

"We know that the Iranian government listens to outside voices — and it's vital that they hear our voices now. The proposed sentence is a travesty. Action must be taken right away because in Iran there is not necessarily a lengthy period before executions can be carried out. We are very concerned," CJFE's President, Arnold Amber, said in the statement.

CJFE and PEN Canada urged the Canadian government to intervene on behalf of Derakhshan who holds both Canadian and Iranian citizenship.

The organizations are working with Derakshan's family and want to make sure the Iranian government is providing him with his basic rights, including access to his lawyer, visits from his family and humane treatment.

News spread on social media sites Monday night that the prosecutor in Tehran requested the death penalty for Derakhshan.

In July 2003, Canadian Iranian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi was killed in an Iranian prison. Years later, in the summer of 2009, Canadian Iranian filmmaker and Newsweek correspondent Maziar Bahari was detained in prison and was only released following pressure from the U.S. government.

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