TORONTO — An Iranian-born man who is a permanent resident of Canada has been sentenced to death in Tehran in a case his supporters say is rife with torture and human rights abuses.
A website run by those campaigning for Saeed Malekpour’s release from an Iranian prison says the 35-year-old was sentenced to death Saturday.
Malekpour’s supporters say an Iranian judge told his lawyer the death sentence was not his decision but one made by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
Malekpour is a website developer who became a permanent Canadian resident in 2004.
His supporters, including his wife who now lives in Richmond Hill, Ont., say he was arrested in Iran in October 2008 after a trip to visit his ailing father.
He has been held in Tehran’s Evin Prison in relation to a case of “Internet offences” linked to a program he made for what turned out to be an adult website.
The charges against him include “taking action against national security by designing and moderating adult content websites,” “agitation against the regime” and “insulting the sanctity of Islam.” His supporters say Malekpour wasn’t aware the program he made would be used for an adult website.
In Ottawa, a spokesman for the Foreign Affairs department said Canada is “deeply concerned by the continued flagrant disregard of the Iranian authorities for the rights of Iranians.”
“This appears to be another case in which someone in Iran is facing a death sentence after a highly questionable process,” spokesman Alain Cacchione said in an e-mail in response to a query.
“Canada, in concert with the international community, is striving to hold Iran accountable for such human rights violations.”
“We continue to call on Iran to respect its domestic and international obligations and ensure fairness and due process for all its citizens and others.”
Malekpour wrote an open letter to Iranian officials in March this year alleging forced confessions, torture which includes lashings, and physical abuse resulting in broken teeth and bodily infections.
“Most of the time, the tortures were performed by a group,” he wrote. “While I remained blindfolded and handcuffed, several individuals armed with cables, batons, and their fists struck and punched me.”
Malekpour said his mistreatment was aimed at forcing him to admit to a false confession before a camera, based on scenarios his interrogators were dictating.
Those campaigning for his release say he was often held in solitary confinement without any outside contact or access to a lawyer.
The group has also sent a petition to the House of Commons calling for Ottawa to appeal to the Iranian government and demand Malekpour’s release.