Iranian Web Designer Faces Imminent Death After Judicial Swindle


Earlier this month, I wrote about Saeed Malekpour, an Iranian-born Canadian resident who was issued a death sentence by the Iranian Supreme Court for creating photo-uploading software that was then used without his knowledge to upload pornography. Despite the enusing uproar, Iranian authorities have continued in their effort to take his life. 

Yesterday, the Saeed Malekpour Campaign, whose aim is to earn the software developer a fair trial in Iranian courts, issued a press release stating that the situation has become dire:

Saeed Malekpour, a Canadian Resident from Iran who has been living with the threat of death in Evin prison since October 2008, can be executed at any moment. When Saeed Malekpour's lawyers visited the Revolutionary Court two days ago to follow up on their client's case file, they discovered that the file containing the death sentence ruling was no longer there, and it was not in the possession of the Supreme Court either. Saeed Malekpour's lawyers were informed that this only meant that the case file was sent to the Circuit Court for Execution of Sentences.

One of the lawyers said: "…Since Saeed Malekpour's sentence is in the possession of the Circuit Court for Execution of Sentences, this means that they are capable of executing Saeed at any moment they wish."

Malekpour's case has been mired in bureaucratic convolution up to this point. After a torturous back and forth between the Iranian Supreme Court and a lower court over the lack of evidence needed to properly evaluate the charges, the Supreme Court finally approved the death sentence by a 3-2 ote. The problem, says Maryam Yazdi, coordinator for the Saeed Malekpour Campaign, is that the three judges who upheld the death sentence had never been seen in the judicial branch of the Iranian government. They are believed to be members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the paramilitary force responsible for terrorizing Iranians in the street and for extracting Malekpour's apocryphal confessions. These confessions are, incidentally, the only evidence against him in the case. How these three men inserted themselves into such a crucial part of the judicial process is anybody's guess. According to Nayeb Yazdi, they "came out of nowhere."

In the normal judicial process in Iran, defense lawyers would have had an opportunity to review the case one last time before it moves on to the Circuit Court for Execution of Sentences, given that "the death penalty is an irreversible punishment," says Nayeb Yazdi. Even if the lawyers saw the file, "they couldn't do much…. With the file open, they would be able to make sure everything is in order, but this case has been illegal and out of order from the start, so obviously they [the authorities] don't want that. The regime has done a very tricky thing." Now that Malekpour can legally be executed as soon as they find the right gallows (for in Iran, public hangings are common), "Saeed's only hope for survival is the international community."

The Canadian Parliament gave a unanimous vote on a motion "expressing concern for Saeed's situation," which was "their strongest move yet." Amnesty International called for Malekpour's release last month. The State Department, European Union, and the Foreign Affairs offices of Britain, Canada, and Italy have issued official statements condemning the death sentences of Malekpour and other people in prison on Internet-related charges.

Nayeb Yazdi emphasizes that "This is a sensitive time in Iran. The political and economic time is tense." The unrest has led to calls to boycott the upcoming parliamentary elections, "yet the government has no protests in the street to crack down on anymore. Everyone has moved online, so they [the regime] are cracking down on the Internet." This has involved increasingly stringent censorship and the creation of a cyber army branch of the IRGC, in addition to increased arrests and death sentences for Internet users. "Executing Saeed would instill the maximum amount of fear in people," Yazdi says. "They would really think twice before plugging in [to the Internet]. If Saeed were executed for these Internet charges, it would set a huge precedent."

Read more about problems in Iran and the Middle East here, here, and here.