Freedom of Expression

Defend Hossein Derakhshan

This is a press release

Index on Censorship has joined with ARTICLE 19, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) and PEN Canada to express dismay at the sentence of 19 and a half years handed down to Canadian-Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan. Although the prosecutor’s call for the death penalty was not approved, the sentence represents a serious violation of Iranian obligations under international law. It is clear that Derakhshan, charged with cooperating with hostile countries, spreading propaganda and insulting religious figures, was sentenced for merely enjoying the right to freedom of expression.

Reports from former cellmates indicate that Derakhshan has been tortured while in prison and subjected to harsh interrogations. Index on Censorship, ARTICLE 19, CJFE and PEN Canada believe that Derakhshan remains at risk for as long as he is in prison, and that the extreme length of the sentence adds to the danger that he faces. Derakhshan has been held in Evin prison for almost two years, but his case only went to trial last summer.

The 19 and a half year prison sentence was announced on the conservative website this morning. The sentence also includes several fines – €30,750, US $2,900, and £200.

The free speech groups call on the Iranian government to release Derakhshan immediately and meet its commitment to protect basic human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression. The groups also ask the international community to continue to hold Iran to its obligations and to support Iranian bloggers, journalists and writers to do their work without fear of imprisonment or reprisal.

Prison is no place for Hossein Derakhshan or for the dozens of other writers, journalists, academics and bloggers who continue to languish in Iran’s jails.