Death Sentence for Iranian Porn Programmer Upheld

Jan 18, 2012 9:00 AM PST

TEHRAN, Iran — Website programmer Saeed Malekpour’s death sentence for developing and promoting porn sites has been upheld by Iran’s supreme court.

The Iranian-born Canadian resident now faces imminent execution despite a reprieve last June when the sentence was suspended and set for judicial review after his defense lawyers introduced expert evidence amidst an international outcry for justice.

According to the Guardian, Malekpour was arrested in October 2008 and taken to Evin prison in Tehran, where he spent a year in solitary confinement without access to lawyers and without being charged.

He later appeared on state television confessing to a series of crimes detailing his involvement with porn sites that led to his conviction.

In a letter from his prison cell, the programmer ultimately retracted his confessions and claimed he made the statements under duress that included physical and psychological torture and threats against his family.

Malekpour wrote, "Once, in October 2008, the interrogators stripped me while I was blindfolded and threatened to rape me with a bottle of water. While I remained blindfolded and handcuffed, several individuals armed with cables, batons, and their fists struck and punched me. At times, they would flog my head and neck.

"Such mistreatment was aimed at forcing me to write what the interrogators were dictating, and to compel me to play a role in front of the camera based on their scenarios."

The programmer’s sister, Maryam Malekpour, said in an interview with Roozoline, the supreme court had confirmed the death sentence despite many discrepancies in the case. "Saeed's lawyers were told that his death sentence will be issued this week."

Maryam Nayeb Yazdi, a Toronto human rights activist who has followed Malekpour's case, told the Guardian, "Saeed is in imminent danger of execution. He has never been provided with a fair trial at any point during this horrific and twisted ordeal.

"There are various discrepancies in Saeed's case file that were supposed to be reviewed and investigated by the revolutionary court, but the judge ignored the discrepancies and reissued the death sentence anyway.

"Saeed is being used as a scapegoat in a string of political games led by the revolutionary guards."

A spokesperson for Amnesty International said capital punishment “extends the long, cold reach of execution in Iran” and the decision exemplifies how the country is setting itself up to censor online information.

"He is alleged to have created 'pornographic' Internet sites and [is accused of] 'insulting the sanctity of Islam', for which he was charged with 'spreading corruption on earth,' a vaguely worded charge which attracted the death penalty in Iran.

"The use of vaguely worded charges is not new in Iran, but the allegation that these were carried out on the Internet is. It is an unwelcome addition to the catalogue of ways in which Iran finds it can execute its own citizens.”

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