Iran - Alarm over bill that would extend death penalty to online crimes



    MONTREAL, July 4 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders is alarmed by a
draft law that would extend the death penalty to crimes committed online.
Passed by parliament on first reading on 2 July, the proposed law would, for
example, apply the death penalty to bloggers and website editors who "promote
corruption, prostitution or apostasy."
    "This proposal is horrifying," Reporters Without Borders said. "Iranian
Internet users and bloggers already have to cope with very aggressive
filtering policies. The passage of such a law, based on ill-defined concepts
and giving judges a lot of room for interpretation, would have disastrous
consequences for online freedom. We urge the parliament's members to oppose
this bill and instead to starting working on a moratorium on the death
penalty."
    The press freedom organisation added: "Death sentences were already
passed last year on two journalists - Adnan Hassanpour and Abdolvahed "Hiva"
Botimar - after judicial proceedings marked by many irregularities. They have
been held for more than a year without any certainty as to what will happen to
them, and we urge the authorities to free them at once."
    Submitted by a score of pro-government parliamentarians and consisting of
13 articles with the declared aim of "reinforcing the penalties for crimes
against society's moral security," the bill was passed on first reading by
180 votes in favour, 29 against and 10 abstentions.
    Article 2 of the bill lists the crimes that are already subject to the
death penalty, including armed robbery, rape and creating prostitution
networks. If the law is adopted, "the creation of blogs and websites promoting
corruption, prostitution and apostasy" will also become capital crimes.
    According to article 3, judges will be able to decide whether the person
found guilty of these crimes is "mohareb" (enemy of God) or "corrupter on
earth." Article 190 of the criminal code stipulates that these crimes are
punishable by "hanging" or by "amputation of the right hand and left foot."
    A blogger, Mojtaba Saminejad, was tried before a Tehran court in 2005 on
a charge of "insulting the prophets," which carries the death penalty. In the
end, the court acquitted him.
    Hassanpour, 28, and Botimar, 30, were sentenced to death on 16 July 2007
by a revolutionary court in the Kurdish city of Marivan on charges of
"subversive activities against national security," spying and "separatist
propaganda." Their convictions were overturned by the supreme court in Tehran
on procedural grounds. The Marivan court reimposed the death sentence on
Botimar in April of this year, while Hassanpour is awaiting a new trial.
    A journalist is also under sentence of death in neighbouring Afghanistan.
It is Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, 23, of Jahan-e Naw ("The New World) who was
arrested on 27 October 2007 in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif and was
given the death sentence on 22 January, at the end of a trial held behind
closed doors and without any lawyer acting for the defence.
    Kambakhsh was arrested after downloading a controversial article from an
Iranian website that quoted suras from the Koran about women. He was convicted
of blasphemy although it was established that he was not the article's author.




For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, Secretary General,
Reporters Without Borders Canada, (514) 521-4111, rsfcanada@rsf.org;
www.rsfcanada.org

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