More than 500 alumni of Sharif University and scores of other Iranian students and academics have issued an open letter protesting the death sentence of Saeed Malekpour, an Iranian web developer accused of setting up “pornographic websites.”
The 35-year-old metallurgy graduate of Sharif University, one of Iran’s top universities, has been in prison since September of 2008.
Malekpour is also a computer software designer, and his charges are linked to his expertise in that area.
At the time of his arrest, Malekpour was a Canadian resident. On a trip to Iran, he was arrested and charged with “designing and operating pornographic websites, rioting against the regime and insulting Islamic sanctities.” The authorities claim Malekpour confessed to these crimes while in custody.
Malekpour, however, has recently written a letter to the Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, the head of Iran’s judiciary, insisting that his so-called confessions were obtained “under severe pressure, torture, threats and false promises of release on bail and leniency.”
In his letter, Malekpour claims to have been “flogged and threatened with sexual abuse” and adds that his teeth and jaws were broken from the beatings during interrogation.
The judiciary has made no response to Malekpour’s letter, and his death sentence remains in force.
In the open letter published today, Iranian students and academic elite write: “The main evidence for this death sentence is one of the hundreds of computer programs written by Saeed throughout his professional life, which was actually used without his knowledge on an internet site. And yet Saeed is deprived of the least possibility of defending himself.”
They add: “Any internet accusation against Saeed should be brought against him in an open and official trial adhering to all legal regulations, in the presence of a jury and with the participation of computer experts that are considered qualified and independent by Iran’s scientific community.”
The signatories of the letter maintain that a death sentence, even for the actual organizers of the said website, is an unjust ruling.
On January 30, Tehran’s prosecutor announced that two directors of pornographic websites had received the death penalty, and their sentence is now being reviewed by the Supreme Court for final approval.
Fatemeh Eftekhari, Malekpour’s wife, has sent a letter to the judiciary indicating the charges against her husband are invalid, and a computer science expert would easily attest to this.