An Iranian website is reporting that Hossein Derakshan – “Hoder” – is under arrest for susicion of espionage on behalf of the state of Israel. This is likely a result of a trip Hossein made to Israel in 2006, travelling on a Canadian passport. At that point in his career, Hossein’s blog was strongly aligned with Iranian reformers, and he was interested in getting a picture of Israel, a state that most Iranians can’t travel to. In recent years, his writings have become highly critical of the US and Israel and strongly pro-regime. As friends who’ve reported on Hossein’s situation have noted, this shift in perspective has confused and distanced some of his earlier supporters.
There’s skepticism within the Global Voices community about Hossein’s arrest. Our Persian-language editor, Hamid Tehrani, has expressed concern about the credibility of the website reporting Hossein’s arrest. Sami Ben Gharbia, in posting about the arrest on the Global Voices Advocacy site, put “arrest” in quotation marks. Both Hamid and Sami are reading Persian-language sources, trying to get a better sense for what’s actually going on. It doesn’t make a tremendous amount of sense to me that a blogger who’s become a major supporter of the Iranian government would be arrested for previous travels and writings, but as I mentioned, we’re all trying to get more details and understand what’s going on.
If Hossein is being detained based on his trip to Israel and on absurd allegations of spying, this is a major injustice, not to mention a phenomenally stupid action by Iranian authorities. I hope we will get news shortly that Hossein was questioned and released, or that the report was inaccurate, but I know that bloggers – including those who vehemently disagree with his recent writing – will rally to his support.
The Times of London offers a backgrounder on Hossein, but isn’t able to confirm his arrest beyond the Jahan News report, which it describes as “a conservative website reputedly close to Tehran’s intelligence community”.