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Iran: what can be done to save lives of rights defenders

Saturday 21 January 2012, by siawi3

Fact sheet from Justice For Iran

January 20, 2012

About Gerdab Project

Gerdab Project is the dismantling of the alleged “corrupt” websites, along with the arrest, detention and issuance of the execution sentence for those involved in those websites that stemmed from the creation of Organized Crime Surveillance Center in March 2009 by the Revolutionary Guards—their website is www.gerdab.ir. In Persian, Gerdab means vortex. The Center has since played an active role in pursuing and arresting Iranian citizens who are actively outspoken against the regime on the internet. Nearly all of those arrested are charged with similar crimes—developing, starting and organizing pornographic websites intended to corrupt the youth so as to prepare the overthrow of the Islamic Republic regime.

Arrests and Detentions

- On May 11, 2008, Vahid Asghari was arrested at Tehran’s International Airport while trying to leave Iran for India where he attends university. He has been held in solitary confinement and suffered tortures and mistreatments in order to extract confessions. Upon obtaining the desired confession, a video of it was broadcasted on Iranian national television as well as the website of the Surveillance Center. Although Asghari was initially arrested with the charge of possession of illicit drugs, he was eventually tried for muharibih, contact with munafiqin—MEK, developing pornographic websites and other such charges. From the time of his arrest, Asghari was pressured to confess his role as the “manager of the largest network of pornographic persian websites on the internet.”

- Ahmadreza Hashempour was arrested in 2008 and has since been kept in detention. He spent majority of his detention in the solitary cells of the Revolutionary Guards. Hashempour was charged with managing websites with anti-religious or “corrupt” content.

- On October 4, 2008, Saeed Malekpour was arrested in Tehran by plainclothes individuals who refused to offer him any form of identifications. Malekpour who at the time resided in Canada was visiting Tehran to be near his dying father. He was subsequently taken to an undisclosed location, referred to by the agents as “technical office,” and was beaten while blindfolded and handcuffed. Then, he was transferred to ward 2-A of Evin prison where he was kept in Solitary cell for 320 days. Throughout the first year following his arrest, Malekpour was prevented from having any visitations. At one point, due to sever beating and torture, Malekpour lost sensation in the left side of his body for three weeks and when taken to the Baghiyattollah Hospital for treatment, without any physical examinations, the ER doctor only prescribed a few pills to calm his nerves. About five months after his arrest, Malekpour’s ailing father passed away and the authorities refused to let him know. In fact, once he became aware of the matter through a five minute phone call with his family, his interrogator laughed at his tears and ridiculed his sorrow. Malekpour was promised by his interrogators that if he were to confess, he would be given the lightest sentence and his indictment would ask for 2 years imprisonment as punishment for his crimes. Malekpour has since published an open letter detailing the tortures he suffered which led to his confessions.

Execution Sentences

On January 7, 2012, Vahid Asghari was sentenced to Execution. His sentence has since gone to the Supreme Court for approval. Ahmad Reza Hashempour was sentenced to execution by the preliminary court. On January 30, 2011, Abbas Ja’far Dowlatabadi announced the issuance of an execution order for two of the managers of the “pornographic websites”—Saeed Malekpour was one of them.

Impending Executions

Ahmad Reza Hashempour’s execution sentence was upheld on January 11, 2012. Although there is an opportunity for his attorney to appeal the Supreme Court decision, his execution is eminent.

After initially rejecting the execution sentence in late 2011, on January 17, 2012, the supreme court upheld Malekpour’s execution sentence. However, the news from Tehran suggests that the judges of Branch 32 of the Supreme Court presiding over Malekpour’s case had expressed no knowledge of the issuance of the Supreme Court latest decision. The sentence can be carried out at any time.

Urgent Action

Imminent danger of death threatens Said Malekpour and Ahmad Hashempour. Their sentences were upheld by the supreme court and can be carried out at any time. Danger of execution also threatens Vahid Asghari if his sentence were to be upheld by the supreme court. For the aforementioned reasons, immediate and urgent action is both necessary and vital.

Furthermore, Justice For Iran is in the process of completing a report, along with legal analysis, about the Gerdab Project; a copy of which will be sent to you. However, due to the time sensitive nature of the matter, we could not wait for the completion of the report to bring it to your attention.

Justice For Iran