03/20/2009, 00.00
IRAN
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Tehran censors Internet as mystery surrounds death in prison of dissident and blogger

The authorities claim that Omidreza Mirsayafi, a young blogger, killed himself with an overdose of prescription drugs. The family retorts that the prison clinic was responsible for dispensing the medicine. A political dissident dies from poison on 6 March. Reporter Roxana Saberi’s father pleads in a letter to Khamenei to let his daughter go.
Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Iranian authorities announced a broad crackdown on what they consider obscene and anti-Islamic websites. They also arrested several bloggers one of whom died in prison under suspicious circumstances. In the meantime Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi remains in jail despite a letter her father wrote to Iran’s Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Omidreza Mirsayafi, a 29-year-old Iranian blogger sentenced to two and half years in prison for insulting Iran’s supreme leader and other Iranian religious leaders, died in Tehran’s Evin Prison on Wednesday.

Prison authorities notified Mirsayafi’s family saying that he committed suicide on 18 March by overdosing on sedative tablets.

Mirsayafi (pictured) was suffering from depression and prison aggravated his condition.

But both his attorney and his sister do not believe the official explanation. For Mr Mirsayafi,s sister he would not have had enough tablets to kill himself because they were given to him by the prison clinic.

On 6 March, Amir Hossein Heshmat-Saran, also died in prison. The political dissident was purging a five-year sentence for his political activities and appears to have been assassinated with toxic chemicals.

Human rights associations have called on the Iranian government to open an investigation to shed light on the case.

Nothing has changed for Roxana Saberi. The 31-year-old woman was arrested in January after a revolutionary court issued an arrest warrant against her for working “illegally” in the country. Initially it had seemed that she had been detained for buying alcohol, but her work as a reporter is the most likely reason.

In early March the situation seemed to be close to a solution but then the authorities stopped.

Recently Reza Saberi, Roxana’s father, wrote to Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, asking him to release her because of her fragile mental state.

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