An Iranian blogger has been arrested in Iran and charged with spying for Israel. He could face the death penalty if found guilty.
Hossein Derakhshan, known around the world as the father of the Iranian blogosphere, was recently arrested upon returning to Iran from Canada.
Jahan News, an Iranian website affiliated with Iran’s intelligence community, reported on Monday that he admitted to spying for Israel.
Derakhshan, a 33-year-old secular Iranian, has been living in Toronto for the past seven years and holds Canadian citizenship. It was in Toronto that he started writing his blog, Hoder, in both English and Persian.
Derakhshan has participated in many international forums as a representative of the younger Iranian generation. Observers have noted a tougher tone in his writing over the past couple of years, in that he has been more supportive of the regime in Tehran.
Derakhshan has appeared in numerous news reports providing an Iranian point of view and expressing support for Iran’s controversial nuclear program. During a visit to Israel in 2007, where he participated in a conference about bloggers in the Middle East, Derakhshan told The Media Line he was trying to fill the gap between local media and international media, which he said gave a biased and simplistic point of view of Iran. His trip to Israel was widely reported in his blog and in the Israeli media. “I came to Israel because I wanted to show the Iranians a more realistic image of this country and its people and without my Persian blog, I would have not been able to do this,” he told The Media Line at the time.
He said the Iranian government was foolish not to allow him to go back there. “People like me are defending the country; we are defending the culture, and in a way, even the Islamic Revolution,” he said. “I would love to have the opportunity to be able to go back to Iran again after I have been to Israel, and make this contact between Iranian and Israelis, which is my project, bypassing the governments and making this contact between the two peoples.” Two years ago, Derakhshan did not express any concern about being arrested.
“Blogging in Iran is not something that gets you into trouble now. It’s a mainstream thing, because religious people, pro-government people have blogs and secular, totally rationalistic people also have blogs,” he said.
He said he had a feeling he could write the English version of his blog from Iran, including criticism of Iranian leaders and impressions from Israel, as long as he toned down the language and did not make it too provocative.
The reason for his returning to Iran is unclear.