Tuesday, October 5, 2010(October 5, 2010) Leading international free speech groups are calling on Sadegh Larijani, head of Iran's judiciary, to release Canadian-Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan. Derakhshan was sentenced to 19 and a half years last week, convicted of 'co-operation with hostile countries, spreading propaganda against the establishment, promoting counter-revolutionary groups, insulting Islamic thought and religious figures and managing obscene websites'. Known as the 'blogfather', he is widely credited as one of the pioneers of blogging in Iran. In a joint letter to Sadegh Larijani, ARTICLE 19, Committee to Protect Journalists, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, Index on Censorship and PEN Canada express their dismay at the sentence and their concerns at Iran's violation of its obligations under international and domestic law to protect and promote human rights, including the right to freedom of expression. 'The Islamic Republic of Iran's domestic laws recognise the right to freedom of expression,' point out the free speech groups. 'Iran was in fact one of the first countries in the world to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1975, which guarantees all individuals the "freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media". 'We believe that Hossein Derakhshan was exercising that very right to freedom of expression. We therefore ask you to do everything in your authority to allow for his release and thereby honour Iran's commitment to protect basic human rights and fundamental freedoms.' Hossein Derakhshan has already spent two years in prison awaiting trial and the free speech groups have received worrying reports that he may have been tortured. ARTICLE 19, Committee to Protect Journalists, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, Index on Censorship and PEN Canada also express their concerns at the deteriorating conditions facing writers, journalists, academics and bloggers in the Islamic Republic. 'Prison is no place for Hossein Derakhshan or for the dozens of other individuals who have been jailed for exercising their right to free speech.'
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