Thursday, June 28, 2012

IRAN - Islamic Republic internationalizes crackdown on dissent

Reporters Without Borders firmly condemns the practice of detaining the relatives of foreign-based netizens as hostages and harassing the families of journalists who work for foreign media. It also deplores the fact that around 10 bloggers and netizens have been arrested since 21 May in Tehran, Mashhad, Hamadan and other cities for “insulting Islam.”
Cyber-police in Hamadan said the editor of a social network page “insulting Islam and the Shiite imams” was tracked down and arrested on 25 June. Reporters Without Borders is not yet able to confirm the exact number and identity of all those who have been arrested on similar charges in the past few days.
Kalameh, a website that supports Iran’s reformists, reports: “The wave of arrests of netizens in Iran began at the end of May. Most of the victims are students. Intelligence officers are pressuring their families to say nothing and to not get in touch with the media.”
According to the information obtained by Reporters Without Borders, the Organized Crime Surveillance Centre, an agency created by the Revolutionary Guards, has played an active role in identifying and arresting the netizens. Those arrested are currently being held in Tehran’s Evin prison, where they have been placed in isolation cells in Section 240 (controlled by the Revolutionary Guards) or in Section 209 (controlled by the intelligence ministry).
Yashar Khameneh, an Iranian student based in Europe, wrote in his blog on 26 June: “My father, Abbas Khameneh, has been a hostage of the intelligence ministry for the past five weeks. No charge has been brought against him, and he has not been allowed to speak to a lawyer or receive visits. He was arrested because he is my father.
“A few days after his arrest, they threatened to execute him if I did not send them a video in which I said I was sorry for what I had written. I did this, but they still have not released my father and now they are demanding all the information about my email and Facebook accounts, closure of the ‘International Campaign for Imam Naghi’ [a satirical Facebook page about the tenth of the 12 Shiite Imams] and my return to Iran.”
This is not the first time that the regime has threatened the families of journalists based abroad or has used intimidation as a way of imposing its law on the media. Steven W. Korn, the head of Prague-based Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, and Arman Mostofi, the head of Radio Farda (Radio Free Europe’s Persian section), reported on 12 June that threats to the families of foreign-based journalists working for Radio Farda have intensified in the past year.


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