Obscenity in Iran

Saeed Malekpour and his wife, Zohre.

Iran’s highest court has upheld a death sentence against a web developer convicted of building a website devoted to pornography.

The developer, Saeed Malekpour, was arrested in 2008 and spent a year in solitary confinement, during which he was flogged, tortured and ordered to confess before television cameras, according to his family.

Malekpour, a permanent resident of Canada, later retracted his confession. His family also protests his innocence, and maintains that he merely provided a firm with software to upload photos, and was not involved in their use of the software. Despite inconsistencies in the case, according to human rights groups, Iran’s Supreme Court has opted to uphold the sentence.

According to Amnesty International, Iran judicial officials executed more than 600 people last year, but the state has never killed someone for “insulting the sanctity of Islam”–Malekpour’s formal charge–on the Internet. Drewery Dyke, a spokesman for Amnesty International, said the verdict represents “an unwelcome addition to the catalogue of ways in which Iran finds it can execute its own citizens.”

Malekpour is 35 years old.

Sweep to Iran confirms death sentence for “porn site” web programmer

When the journalist Maritza Maldonado tweeted on the health of Hugo Chávez, the Venezuelan president battling cancer, nobody stopped the presses.

But the tweet did catch the attention of Venezuela’s security services. Maldonado told the news program La Noche that two agents accosted her on the street, threw a coat over her head and bundled her into a white van. They delivered her to a police station in central Caracas, where she was tortured and held incommunicado for eight days.

This was not the first time Venezuelans who speak up about Chávez’s ill health have fared poorly themselves. In October, Chávez’s personal physician, Salvador Navarrete, fled the country after the surgeon told a news magazine that Chávez likely had only two years to live.  Soon after his remarks, Navarette, too, had a visit from security agents. “I am not a traitor,” he wrote in a subsequent statement.

Chávez maintains that after surgery and four rounds of chemotherapy, he is now cancer-free.

Sweep (in Spanish) to Periodista Maritza Maldonado torturada 

The lawyer for Hosni Mubarak, the deposed Egyptian president now facing prosecution on charges of corruption, contends that Mubarak should not be subject to judgment by civilians.

The lawyer, Farid al-Deeb, said that because of Mubarak’s role in the October 1973 war against Israel, the ailing president is entitled to lifetime status as a military officer. Before becoming president, Mubarak headed the Egyptian Air Force.

A military law passed in May says that only military courts can question members of the armed services on matters of corruption. The law effectively makes investigations into corruption by the military off-limits for civilians.

Mubarak, who also faces charges related to the killing of protesters, is in a sense fighting for his life. Families of his victims and other critics amass on the streets outside the courtroom, where ready-made nooses and dolls of the president hanging in effigy have become a common fixture of their vigil.

Sweep to Defense lawyer: Only military court can try Mubarak for corruption 


Diana Jean Schemo

Diana Jean Schemo

Diana Jean Schemo is president and executive editor of 100Reporters, and the founder and co-director of the Double Exposure Film Festival and Symposium, the United States' only investigative film festival.