Monday, July 07, 2008

7 July 2008
Parliament passes bill that would extend death penalty to include online
crimes; court re-imposes death penalty on journalist
SOURCE: Reporters sans frontières (RSF), Paris
(RSF/IFEX) - RSF is alarmed by a draft law that would extend the death
penalty to include crimes committed online. Passed by parliament on first
reading on 2 July 2008, the proposed law would, for example, apply the
death penalty to bloggers and website editors who "promote corruption,
prostitution or apostasy."
"This proposal is horrifying," RSF said. "Iranian Internet users and
bloggers already have to cope with very aggressive filtering policies. The
passage of such a law, based on ill-defined concepts and giving judges a
lot of room for interpretation, would have disastrous consequences for
online freedom. We urge the parliament's members to oppose this bill and
instead to start working on a moratorium on the death penalty."
The press freedom organisation added, "Death sentences were already passed
last year on two journalists, Adnan Hassanpour and Abdolvahed "Hiva"
Botimar, after judicial proceedings marked by many irregularities. They
have been held for more than a year without any certainty as to what will
happen to them, and we urge the authorities to free them at once."
Submitted by a score of pro-government parliamentarians and consisting of
13 articles with the declared aim of "reinforcing the penalties for crimes
against society's moral security," the bill was passed on first reading by
180 votes in favour, 29 against and 10 abstentions.
Article 2 of the bill lists the crimes that are already subject to the
death penalty, including armed robbery, rape and creating prostitution
networks. If the law is adopted, "the creation of blogs and websites
promoting corruption, prostitution and apostasy" will also become capital
According to article 3, judges will be able to decide whether the person
found guilty of these crimes is a "mohareb" (enemy of God) or "corrupter on
earth." Article 190 of the criminal code stipulates that these crimes are
punishable by "hanging" or by "amputation of the right hand and left foot."
A blogger, Mojtaba Saminejad, was tried before a Tehran court in 2005 on a
charge of "insulting the prophets", which carries the death penalty. In the
end, the court acquitted him.
Hassanpour, 28, and Botimar, 30, were sentenced to death on 16 July 2007 by
a revolutionary court in the Kurdish city of Marivan on charges of
"subversive activities against national security", spying and "separatist
propaganda". Their convictions were overturned by the supreme court in
Tehran on procedural grounds. The Marivan court re-imposed the death
sentence on Botimar in April 2008. Hassanpour is awaiting a new trial.
Another journalist is also under sentence of death in neighbouring
Afghanistan. Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, 23, of "Jahan-e Naw" (The New World)
newspaper, was arrested on 27 October 2007 in the northern city of
Mazar-i-Sharif and was given the death sentence on 22 January 2008, at the
end of a trial held behind closed doors and without any lawyer acting for
the defence.
Kambakhsh was arrested after downloading a controversial article from an
Iranian website that quoted suras from the Koran about women. He was
convicted of blasphemy although it was established that he was not the
article's author.

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