The Iranian Supreme Court has overturned a previous sentence and approved the execution of Canadian resident, Saeed Malekpour.
Malekpour was arrested and detained, in 2008 at Evin prison in Tehran, for over a year without being formally charged. His crime? He created software that allowed pictures to be uploaded. His punishment? The death sentence. His software was allegedly used to upload pornographic images to a pornographic website. A court in Tehran sentenced him to the death penalty after he confessed to “acting against national security through propaganda”. He later withdrew his confession stating he had given it under extreme duress and torture.
This is not the first time the death penalty has been handed down for ‘online expression’. While Amnesty International indicates 39 people have already been put to death since the beginning of 2012, the Iranian government has only officially avowed 17 executions.
In March of 2010, Saeed wrote an open letter while he was in prison. It details what “physical and psychological torture” he received at the hands of the “Revolutionary Guards Cyber Counterattack” team in order to extract a confession from him.
Some of the confessions they forced me to make were so ridiculous and far-fetched that they are not even possible.
For example, they asked me to falsely confess to purchasing software from the UK and then posting on my website for sale. I was forced to add that when somebody visited my website, the software would be – without the visitor’s knowledge – installed on their computer and would take control of their web cam, even when their web cam was turned off. Although I told them that what they were suggesting was impossible from a technological point of view, they responded that I should not concern myself with such things.
United For Iran has stated an initiative to raise awareness of Saeed’s case. It is truly frightening that a person can be held in a prison for over a year, receive the death penalty from a Supreme Court, and be executed for creating completely benign and legal software.