When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

14 June 2005

Omid and the mullahs

A communique from the Committee to Protect Bloggers:

Omid Sheikhan, an Iranian who blogs as Shurideh, was arrested last year in that country’s initial crackdown on bloggers and journalists. Sheikhan now faces a court date of October 8 without the benefit of representation.

He faces the same court that sentenced Arash Sigarchi to fourteen years in prison and Mojtaba Saminejad to two years. But unlike them, Sheikhan does not have an attorney. His father is ill and cannot contribute to an attorney’s fee.

The unlikelihood, in the wake of the continued crackdown and convictions, that Sheikhan’s legal experience will be fair is compounded by this lack of legal help. Iran does not have a public defender program and Sheikhan is likely to face conviction and sentencing with a complete lack of even procedural competence.

According to a source close to the situation, Sheikhan was arrested in September of 2004 and imprisoned for two months in a Tehran prison, one of which was spent in isolation and under torture, and an additional month in Ghezel Hezar prison.

“Of course they forced him by mental and physical torture to confess about having unlawful relations and drinking wine, because they couldn't find any crime from him and his weblog,” said the source. “Also, because his weblog was satire, they tried to force him by torture to confess that he had another weblog with political contents.”

As with most of twenty-plus arrests of Iranian bloggers over the past year, the charges rarely correspond to the actual activities of the detained bloggers.

It is one thing to arrest an alleged criminal, even in as far-fetched a situation as Sheikhan’s. It is quite another to do so without providing a transparent court to try him in and without providing the detainee with competent legal advice. Omid Sheikhan cannot get a fair trial in Iran under these circumstances.

It is of paramount importance that this unfair conviction be headed off before it happens. Please spread the word and visit the Committee’s blog for continuing updates and for information on other threatened and imprisoned bloggers.

Curt Hopkins, Director
Committee to Protect Bloggers
(541) 729-4146

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