Here, There and Everywhere

Dear Gabriel,

Iranians just held parliamentary elections. But many bloggers, students, journalists, filmmakers and other activists couldn’t exercise their right to vote.

They’ll be in jail.

One prisoner, Canadian resident and web programmer Saeed Malekpour, faces a death sentence and could be executed at any time. What did Saeed do to warrant this harsh sentence, based on charges of “insulting and desecrating Islam”? He wrote a web program that was used — without Saeed’s knowledge — for uploading pornographic images online.

Remind the Iranian authorities that death sentences are the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Demand that Iran commute Saeed Malekpour’s death sentence for “cyber crimes” and give him a fair trial, free from torture and coercion.

Saeed’s case is a harbinger of what is to come as Iran unleashes a frightening new crackdown on freedom of expression. Amnesty’s report released this week, “We are ordered to crush you”: Expanding Repression of Dissent in Iran, reveals a widening net of repression in Iran — a net increasingly focused on Internet users and free speech on the web.

Freedom of expression was already on life support in Iran. Now, a “Cyber Army” has been unleashed to impose a total information blackout in the country.

Internet users in Iran increasingly find themselves caught in the crosshairs of this new wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, a shadowy group entrusted with cutting off the free flow of information in the country. The “Cyber Army” has also extended its reach abroad, blocking Amnesty’s website in Iran, and carrying out attacks on websites like Twitter and the Voice of America.

Many Iranians are scared into silence. And if anyone dares to fight back and criticize the government publicly, their words will cost them dearly. Harsh sentences like Saeed’s aren’t unheard of, and those imprisoned in Iran often face terrible mistreatment — torture, forced confessions, years of solitary confinement.

Iran cannot be allowed to violate human rights with impunity, online or offline. Saeed Malekpour must not be executed for his alleged crimes. As Iranians head to the ballot box, cast your “vote” today by taking action for freedom of expression in Iran.

Sincerely,

Elise Auerbach
Iran Country Specialist
Amnesty International USA

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