8 Years Later: Saeed Malekpour Is Still In An Iranian Prison Simply For Writing Open Source Software

from the free-saeed dept

We talk a great deal on Techdirt about the importance of free speech alongside the importance of not damning technological tools for the way third parties choose to use them. These matters can delve into minutiae in the American and Western forms of this conversation, with discussions about Section 230 protections and the like. But in other parts of the world, the conversation is much different.

Back in 2008 in Iran, for instance, the government there elected to imprison a Canadian resident of Iranian lineage, initially under a death sentence, but later commuting that sentence to mere life imprisonment. His crime? Saeed Malekpour created some open source code for sharing photos on the internet that others within Iran used for pornography.

Saeed was living in Canada as a permanent resident before he embarked on what was supposed to be a short trip to Iran in October 2008. While visiting his father in Iran, authorities decided to target Malekpour for his open source software program that others had used to upload pornographic images to the Internet.

His story is one of many that exemplify the fear Iranian authorities use to control the nation’s Internet space. Saeed was charged with threatening the nation’s Islamic ideals and national security via propaganda against the system, but evidence against him was scant. He spent time in solitary confinement and gave forced confessions — widely publicized on national television in 2010 — that were extracted under torture, including beatings, electrocution and threats of rape.

This follows the Iranian tradition of tamping down on the freedom and outcry of its own citizens by making examples of others. The guilt or innocence of these others is hardly relevant to this practice. In the case of Saeed, the target was the sharing tool, not the porn that others might have used it for. It’s no mistake that Saeed’s arrest came directly in the wake of the Iranian government’s 2008 legislation blitz aimed at curtailing a free and open internet presence within its borders.

While groups like the EFF have been calling for his release for some time now, they are also currently running a campaign to help him through a letter-writing blitz targeted at Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. On Tuesday, the anniversary of Saeed’s arrest, #FreeSaeed made its way around Twitter.

For those of us who believe in not only a free and open internet, but in the freedom to create and evolve digital tools — without having to fear being targeted for the actions of others, particularly for benign actions like pornography — it’s a cause worth joining.

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Comments on “8 Years Later: Saeed Malekpour Is Still In An Iranian Prison Simply For Writing Open Source Software”

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David says:

Re: Re: What Software ?

IIRC it was some plugin/software for managing an image gallery/carousel, something similarly generic. However, it seems a porn site(s) had acquired a copy and used this plugin/software (which is what people do with open source software), so Iran is making the claim he’s supporting porn.

It may have been taken down offline now.

That One Guy (profile) says:

'Interesting' standards

Create a program that others use to share porn = Execution, ‘graciously’ lowered to ‘just’ life in prison.

Torture, beatings, electrocutions and threats of rape to extract confessions = Just another day in Iran.

I suppose when you’ve made it clear to the populous that dissent or questioning those in charge is punishable by death such trivialities as being logically consistent and/or not abhorrent psychopaths is seen as too much work.

Rekrul says:

Can we please stop pretending that these countries are “civilized”? Any civilian who goes to Iran, Iraq or pretty much any country in the middle east should have their head examined. I don’t care if it is to visit family, any citizen of a western country who goes to the middle east risks being imprisoned on trumped up charges. Sure, it may not happen to everyone, or even to the majority of people, but you never know who they’ll decide to arrest.

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