Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Canadian government has expressed its concern over the fate of Hossein Derakhshan, a 35-year-old blogger who has been sentenced to a "severe" 19 years in prison in Iran. Iranian authorities handed down the sentence against the Canadian-Iranian man on Tuesday. Prior to the sentenced, Derakhshan had been facing the death penalty for his political activities. In the meantime, US President Barack Obama has ordered unprecedented sanctions against senior Iranian officials for "sustained and severe violations of human rights".
According to media reports and the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, which spoke to Derakhshan's family, the blogger was charged with “co-operation with hostile states, propagating against the regime, propagation in favour of antirevolutionary groups, insulting sanctities, and implementation and management of obscene websites.”
“We are deeply concerned by reports of this severe sentence against Mr. Derakhshan,” Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said. “If true, such a sentence is completely unacceptable and unjustifiable.”
“Mr. Derakhshan’s situation is complicated by his dual nationality, which is not recognized by the Iranian authorities,” he added.
Hossein Derakhshan, who is known in the blogging community as Hoder, is considered one of the pioneers of Iranian blogging.
He has been an outspoken critic of the Iranian regime, particularly in the areas of civil liberties, censorship and freedom of speech.
on his Canadian passport, he travelled to Israel, Iran’s sworn enemy, in 2006, which is illegal for Iranian citizens. He later described his adventure in that country in English and Persian.
He was arrested in November 2008 and has now been sentenced to 19 years in prison and banned from media writing for five years.
Meanwhile in Washington, US President Barack Obama ordered unprecedented sanctions against eight senior Iranian officials for "sustained and severe violations of human rights".
They include the head of the Revolutionary Guards, a former interior minister and the prosecutor general.
The US Treasury Department said the eight officials would also face a travel ban and asset freeze.
They are charged with killing and beating anti-government protesters after the disputed presidential election in June 2009 that saw the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
In a statement, the White House said, “The United States will always stand with those in Iran who aspire to have their voices heard. We will be a voice for those aspirations that are universal, and we continue to call upon the Iranian government to respect the rights of its people."
The officials on the list are Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC); Sadeq Mahsouli, the current minister of welfare and security, Qolam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei, the current prosecutor general of Iran; Saeed Mortazavi, Heydar Moslehi, Mostafa Mohammad Najjar, Ahmad-Reza Radan, and Hossein Taeb.