CJFE and PEN Canada Deeply Concerned about Death Sentence for Canadian in Iran

Tuesday, September 21, 2010
(Toronto, September 21, 2010) Two leading Canadian free expression organizations have confirmed reports that Canadian Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan may face the death sentence. Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) and PEN Canada learned from Derakhshan's family that the Iranian prosecutor in his case has called for the death penalty. Hossein 'Hoder' Derakhshan, often credited as the father of the blogging movement in Iran, was arrested soon after returning to Iran on November 1, 2008, and has been held in the infamous Evin prison since then. A trial was finally held this summer, and 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.' Yesterday, news started filtering out on social media sites that the prosecutor in Tehran's revolutionary court requested the death penalty for Derakhshan. Derakhshan's fate is now in the hands of Judge Salavati. "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," said CJFE's President, Arnold Amber. CJFE and PEN Canada are jointly calling on the Canadian government to intervene with the Iranian authorities on behalf of Derakhshan who holds both Canadian and Iranian citizenship. "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," Amber added. This is not the first time that a Canadian journalist has faced reprisals for exercising the right to free expression in Iran. In July 2003, Canadians were horrified at the killing of Canadian Iranian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi in Evin prison. And more recently in the summer of 2009, well-known Canadian Iranian filmmaker and Newsweek correspondent Maziar Bahari was detained in prison. He was eventually released partly due to pressure from the United States government. "This is a dark day for all who value human rights and free expression," said Ellen Seligman, President of PEN Canada. "We are deeply disturbed and dismayed to learn that, after nearly two years in prison for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression, Hossein Derakhshan may now face a death sentence. We ask that all measures be taken by the government of Iran to prevent this action from proceeding further." CJFE and PEN Canada urge the government of Iran to uphold the human rights of its citizens, ensure that this heinous sentence does not go forward, and provide Derakhshan with his basic rights including complete access to his lawyer, visits from his family and humane treatment. The organizations also join with Derakhshan's family in asking for the Canadian government's intervention. For more information, contact: Julie Payne at (416) 515-9622 x. 226 CJFE Manager Brendan de Caires at (416) 703-8448 x.21 Programs Coordinator, PEN Canada

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