Iranian authorities released Iranian-Canadian blogger Hossein Derakhshan last night, according to Iranian news agency Mehr.
Derakshan, who is known for his support for the Iranian regime, was jailed in November 2008 after he returned to Iran from Israel. He posted details of his release on different social media outlets.
“After my request to extend my furlough by two weeks was rejected, I was ordered to go back to prison,” Derakhshan said. “But after spending some time in quarantine, I was told that the rest of my sentence had been forgiven by the Supreme Leader. After six years, I’ve been released. Thank you, God. Thank you, Ayatollah Khamenei. Thank you to those who supported and prayed for me in those difficult days.”
Derakhshan was originally sentenced to 19 and half years in prison in December 2010, having already spent more than two years in detention. His lawyer and family found out about the sentence online.
The charges against Derakhshan included "insulting religious leaders," "cooperating with hostile states," and "propaganda against the regime."
The International Campaign for Human Rights for Iran wrote that according to a source close to Derakhshan’s family, “After his 2008 arrest, Derakhshan spent nearly 10 months in solitary confinement, completely isolated from the outside world, and was subjected to beatings.”
Reporters Without Borders denounced the sentence, noting that, “Such a long jail term has never before been imposed on a blogger in Iran and is indicative of a desire to make an example out of Derakhshan.”
Derakhshan had an award-winning blog online called “Editor: Myself”, which was reported to be the first Persian-language blog and gave step-by-step instructions on how the blogosphere in Iran worked.
Derakhshan also wrote for the Washington Post, Newsweek, BBC World Service, the Guardian and other international media.
Throughout most of Derakhsha’s incarceration, his family kept a blog, where they posted news regarding his case. The blog has not been updated since April 2013.
Derakshan has long been a controversial figure among Iranian journalists. Considered a reformist in his early blogging career, he began posting while living in Canada, and initially spoke out against the Islamic Republic and its regime, particularly the clergy. He said his visits to Israel were part of an aim to bring the peoples of the two countries together. But later, he voiced support for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and criticized international human rights NGOs, including Reporters Without Borders and Human Rights Watch, saying that their campaigns were misguided and not beneficial to Iranian people. In the case of Reporters Without Borders, he dismissed the credibility of the person in charge of Iran-focused initiatives for the organization.
The release of Derakshan will no doubt command significant international media attention, leading to speculation as to why the regime decided to release him, and why it chose now to do it.