Ethan Zuckerman’s online home, since 2003

Could Canada help release Hossein Derakhshan?

My friend, Canadian/Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan has been imprisoned in Iran since November 2008. A few days ago, we got the disturbing news that Tehran’s prosecutor would seek the death penalty for Hossein’s alleged offenses: “collaborating with enemy states, creating propaganda against the Islamic regime, insulting religious sanctity, and creating propaganda for anti-revolutionary groups.”

For many people who know Hossein, his decision to return to Iran in 2008 was a surprise. His previous and widely documented travel to Israel made it likely that he would be prosecuted on returning home. Maziar Bahari, a Canadian/Iranian journalist who had previously been detained in Iran (in part because of an interview he did with The Daily Show’s Jason Jones), helped explain Hossein’s miscalculation. In an interview with On the Media, Bahari explains that Hossein may have been promised by the Ministry of Intelligence that he’d be able to return to Iran safely. (Hoder began his blogging career supporting reformist politicians. Later in his career, he became concerned that the Bush administration would invade Iran, and he became an outspoken supporter of Ahmedinejad.) Once he returned to Tehran, members of the Revolutionary Guard chose to arrest Hossein, perhaps to send a message to anyone who would use digital media to organize politically. Bahari describes Hoder’s situation as “a clear case of the internal battle between the Revolutionary Guards and the Ministry of Intelligence.”

What’s most helpful about Bahari’s interview is that he offers insight on what might help with Hossein’s release: “In my case, and in case of many other dual citizens, including Roxana Saberi, if the second country of that person – in my case, Canada, in Roxana’s case, the United States – if they’re vocal about their citizens, then the Iranian government listens and reacts to the actions of the foreign government.”

Canada hasn’t been especially vocal in pushing for Hossein’s release. My friend Cyrus Farivar has been regularly calling Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, and getting unsatisfying answers. His most recent exchange is here.

If Bahari is right, he’s suggesting a possible strategy for the groups trying to advocate for Hossein’s release: pressure Canada. Specifically, the Honorable Lawrence Cannon, the minister of Foreign Affairs. Contact information for his office is here. My guess is that inquiries from Hossein’s fellow Canadians, to the Minister as well as to individual members of parliament would carry more weight than inquiries from citizens of other nations. For my Canadian readers, I hope you might consider contacting your government in the hopes that they’ll more actively seek release for your fellow citizen.


Update: The Iranian government has sentenced Hossein to 19.5 years in prison. While everyone is happy that he’s not facing execution, this is an absurd and unfair sentence for a man who did nothing more than share his thoughts online. I hope readers who are inclined will continue to pressure the Canadian government to act on his behalf.

3 Responses to “Could Canada help release Hossein Derakhshan?”

  1. In the most recent episode of The World’s Tech Podcast, I interview Robert Guerra, of FreedomHouse, and a Canadian, who outlines strategies that Canadians might pursue to get their government to take more action in this case.

    http://www.theworld.org/2010/09/23/tech-podcast-iranian-blogger-may-face-death-penalty/

  2. Paula Mannone says:

    From: Liberal Media

    Liberal Caucus

    [LE FRANÇAIS SUIT L'ANGLAIS]

    For Immediate Release
    September 29, 2010

    Liberals demand Harper government stand up for Canadian citizens detained in Iran

    OTTAWA – The Liberal Party of Canada today called on the Conservative government to inform Canadians of what is being done to intervene on behalf of two Canadian citizens currently detained in Iran.

    Canadian-Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan was sentenced this week to 19 years in prison for content on his blog, while Hamid Ghassemi-Shall is also in prison and could face a death sentence.

    “Mr. Derakhshan’s family in Canada is asking the Conservative government to do something to help him with an appeal,” said Liberal Consular Affairs critic Dan McTeague. “Mr. Ghassemi-Shall also faces the prospect of spending years in prison, or worse, based on espionage charges. The government must stand up for their safety, and their legal and human rights.”

    Mr. McTeague met today with Iranian officials in Ottawa to discuss these cases. “It is still unclear what the Conservative government is doing to help these two Canadians,” he said.

    “The government should be in constant contact with the worried families of these two men. Instead, Mr. Ghassemi-Shall’s wife is brushed aside by the government and forced to spend her own money to travel to New York and stand outside Iranian Leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s hotel, waiting alone to plead for her husband’s life.

    “We demand that the Harper government raise its concerns with the highest levels of the Iranian government. It must obtain consular access to both Mr. Derakhshan and Mr. Ghassemi-Shall to determine their well-being and do all it can to gain their release.”

    Mr. Derakshan, who moved to Canada from his native Iran in 2000, has been in an Iranian prison since 2008. He is accused of creating propaganda against the Iranian regime on his blog.

    -30-

    Contact:

    Office of the Hon. Dan McTeague, MP, 613-995-8082

    Pour diffusion immédiate
    Le 29 septembre 2010

    Les libéraux demandent au gouvernement Harper d’intervenir en faveur de citoyens canadiens détenus en Iran

    OTTAWA – Le Parti libéral du Canada exhorte aujourd’hui le gouvernement conservateur à informer les Canadiens au sujet des mesures qui seront prises pour intervenir en faveur de deux citoyens canadiens détenus en Iran.

    Le bloggeur irano-canadien, Hossein Derakhshan, a été condamné cette semaine à 19 ans de prison pour le contenu de son blog. Hamid Ghassemi-Shall est aussi détenu et pourrait faire face à la peine de mort.

    « La famille de M. Derakhshan au Canada demande au gouvernement conservateur de prendre des mesures pour lui venir en aide afin qu’il puisse faire appel de son jugement, a déclaré le porte-parole libéral responsable des Affaires consulaires, Dan McTeague. M. Ghassemi-Shall risque également d’être incarcéré pendant de nombreuses années ou pire encore, car il fait face à des accusations d’espionnage. Le gouvernement doit intervenir pour assurer leur sécurité et protéger leurs droits juridiques et humains. »

    M. McTeague rencontre aujourd’hui les responsables iraniens à Ottawa pour discuter de cette situation. « Nous ne savons pas encore quelles mesures prendra le gouvernement conservateur pour venir en aide à ces deux Canadiens, a-t-il ajouté.

    « Le gouvernement devrait constamment rester en contact avec les deux familles troublées par le sort de ces deux hommes. Mais voilà que le gouvernement reste sourd aux inquiétudes de l’épouse de M. Ghassemi-Shall, qui est contrainte à couvrir elle-même les frais de son déplacement à New York et d’attendre seule devant l’hôtel du leader iranien, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, pour le supplier de sauver la vie de son époux.

    « Nous demandons au gouvernement Harper de transmettre ses préoccupations aux plus hautes autorités du gouvernement iranien. Il doit obtenir l’accès consulaire pour M. Derakhshan et M. Ghassemi-Shall afin de s’assurer de leur bien-être et doit tout mettre en oeuvre pour restaurer leur liberté. »

    M. Derakshan, qui a immigré au Canada de son pays natal en 2000, est incarcéré en Iran depuis 2008. Il est accusé d’avoir publié de la propagande contre le régime iranien sur son blog.

    -30-

    Renseignements :

    Bureau de l’honorable Dan McTeague, député, 613-995-8082

  3. kamal farhad says:

    the backdoor negotiations worked for this case , people with much minor conviction , hanged in Iran , Drakhshan and his family done his duty well for their beloved regime ,
    19 years “termed” jail sentence is a great gift to him , his wealthy and connected family can buy this” termed ” jail sentence immediately after confirmation of the court decision , due the Iranian jurisdiction laws for “Termed ” jail sentence !!
    an he will not spent a day in jail as he didi not in past …
    only you waste your time to follow this case and miss led the medias from harsh condition of real political prisoners and human right in Iran

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  4. Mediactive » Iran imprisons its blogfather - [...] citizen media world, I was surprised to hear that he’d gone back to Iran. Ethan Zuckerman explains: His previous and …

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