UN, Ban ki-Moon, Navi Pillay, Ahmed Shaheed, European Parliament, EU, State Department

Amir Sadeghpour of Kerman, Iran, editor of the Narenji website and an admin at the health news website Macafzar and also at the IT news website Salemzi, was arrested on December 4, 2013 along with 15 other IT specialists and Net Citizens. This is part of a broader crackdown on netcitizens there. Kerman’s Prosecutor General announced the arrest of nine people linked to foreign media and cyber networks.

Half of those arrested have since been released on bail, the Guardian has learned, but the rest, including Narenji's staff, remain in detention.

Bloggers and activists currently in jail include Aliasghar Honarmand, who is the founder of Narenji, which specialises in gadget news, Abbas Vahedi, Hossein Nozari, Reza Nozari, Amir Sadeghpour, Mehdi Faryabi, Ehsan Paknejad and Malihe Nakhaei.

The head of Kerman's justice department, Ali Tavakoli, alleged this week that those arrested had participated in projects run by the BBC and received funds deriving from London.

Iranian authorities have a deep suspicion of the BBC, especially its Persian service, which they accuse of having a political agenda, and have previously arrested people on charges of working or having links with the broadcaster.

"This gang was running a number of projects and plans for anti-revolutionary Iranians based abroad, especially for the BBC Persian under the guise of legitimate activities," he said during a press conference.

"Financial aid for this group was usually provided from London under the pretext of charitable donations. The director of the team was an individual who has served the BBC as a mentor and teacher in a number of countries such as Malaysia, India and Afghanistan and his travels to these countries was paid for by British intelligence services."

Tavakoli said that those held had confessed to "being tasked with fuelling social tension, spreading doubts and misrepresentations". It was not clear if the eight still in jail had access to lawyers or to their families.

He said: "They were consciously serving the plots designed by the sworn enemies of this country and they deserve to receive the most severe punishment."

The Guardian reported last year that the Iranian authorities had been conducting a smear campaign designed to discredit and intimidate London-based Iranian journalists working for BBC Persian.

A number of BBC Persian staff were victims of false allegations of sexual misconduct, duplicated Facebook accounts, and harassment of their family members in Iran including being summoned by the intelligence officials for questioning. The harassments have continued despite the election of Hassan Rouhani as president.

At least one of the detainees was among the trainees of an award-winning journalism development programme run by the BBC World Service Trust from 2006 to 2010, called ZigZag.

The BBC has denied that those arrested were co-operating with it and said the training programmes mentioned by the Iranian authorities ended four years ago, according to BBC Persian.

Soon after their arrests were made in Kerman, the semi-official Fars news agency, affiliated to the Revolutionary Guards, said the detainees has be in "contact with enemy media based abroad with the aim of producing content for educational websites targeted at citizen-journalists".

Bloggers and activists currently in jail include Aliasghar Honarmand, who is the founder of Narenji, which specialises in gadget news, Abbas Vahedi, Hossein Nozari, Reza Nozari, Amir Sadeghpour, Mehdi Faryabi, Ehsan Paknejad and Malihe Nakhaei.

A former BBC project manager, who did not want to be named, told the Guardian: "I believe the arrests, especially of the Narenji team, to be part of the reaction of the hardliners within the Iranian establishment to the attempts of President Rouhani to move towards the opening up of cyberspace and the media sphere; and to relax the previous rigid attitude towards contacts with foreign institutions."

We, the undersigned, urge the Iranian government to correct the flagrantly illegal arrests and ongoing persecution of Amir Sadeghpour, his fellow staff members at the Narenji website, and other Net Citizens, on the part of the Revolutionary Guard Corps and FATA cyber police.

These innocent and peaceful young professionals, citizens of Iran's nascent civil society, must not become pawns in a power struggle by the Revolutionary Guards and other hardline factions opposed to reformist elements within the new Presidential administration.

In fact, such considerations only highlight the flagrant illegality of their ongoing imprisonment and of the charges against them, all of which violated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (to which Iran is s signatory) and Article 24 of the Iranian constitution.

We further urge the international community to bring all possible pressure to bear upon the Islamic Republic of Iran to live up to its LEGALLY BINDING human rights obligations by: 1.IMMEDIATELY and UNCONDITONALLY releasing Mr. Sadeghpour and the other staff members of Narenji, and 2. Dropping all charges brought against all 16 Iranian net citizens.

Sign this petition

Verify (check then click Sign) [?]

GoPetition respects your privacy.

Petition tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,