Saeed Malekpour is spending Nowruz in Evin Prison for the seventh year in a row. He’s currently held in a general ward, which means there is less pressure on him now than compared to when he was held in Ward 2A. He hasn’t had any visitors for the past year, prison authorities won’t allow him any; this is torture. But, things were much worse for him his six years in ward 2A: a place that doesn’t fall under prison jurisdiction and is fully run by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). He was transferred after his case received much international attention in spring 2014.
Saeed lived in the shadow of death for five of the years in Ward 2A, sentenced to die for waging war against god and corruption on earth through allegedly moderating multiple pornographic websites. To this day no Iranian authority has presented any evidence other than forced confessions to prove that Saeed’s “guilty” of any type of “crime” that warrants imprisonment or the death sentence. His execution was stopped twice – the first time by the Iranian Supreme Court due to irregularities and inconsistencies in the case file, the second time by Iran’s leader Ali Khamenei through a pardon; but the imprisonment sentence remains for no given reason…It’s not certain when the authorities will release him.
For the first two years of Saeed’s arrest he was abused to extreme levels by IRGC officials. They tortured him to the point that he agreed to give televised confessions. Some details of his torture are in the letter he wrote and smuggled out of prison: http://j.mp/xIiz80 His sister Maryam Malekpour has said that the full letter is too gruesomely disturbing to share publicly.
In 2008 the IRGC had established a group known as the Iranian Cyber Army. Their main goal is to crackdown on obscene and immoral websites online. Their first main project consisted of bringing down pornographic websites and tracking down their moderators/owners. The main target was called Avizoon, a site which at that time was among the top three most visited in Iran. The IRGC brought it down in 2009.
When Saeed returned to Iran from Canada in 2008 to visit his ailing father, the IRGC authorities hit the jackpot, they captured him and locked him up. They accused him of moderating porn sites, namely Avizoon. Despite the lack of evidence, Iranian authorities insisted he was the moderator, but according to Saeed, he had created a picture upload program for a client whom he acquired through freelance, and was unaware of which sites the code was used in. Apparently, the authorities found the code along with Saeed’s name in it when they hacked Avizoon.
Now that they had Saeed, they were able to close the case on Avizoon, which meant that they could receive more money for a next project. According to sources, the cyber army was receiving millions of dollars for each project. They became very rich after Saeed.
Every day that Saeed remains imprisoned, it becomes increasingly clear that to the Iranian authorities, he is just a pawn in a bloody chess game. Even though he is now in the general ward and no longer living in the shadow of death, his fate still remains in the hands of the IRGC and, ultimately, the leader of Iran.
May Saeed be released any day now.
Last night Amnesty Toronto held an event for Nowruz and highlighted several political prisoners, including Saeed. His sister sent a note that was read to the audience:
This is the seventh Nowruz that Saeed is spending in prison. This is the seventh Nowruz that Saeed is not by his family’s side. Thank you to all the people who have stood by Saeed’s and my side and continue to do so. I hope that this will be a good year for us all – a year where we can celebrate the release of our dear ones from prison – a year where all the locks and chains are opened and all the pain, suffering and distance become nothing more than memories – a year where we are all feeling good. Happy New Year.