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REGIONS:

Blogger Arash Sigarchi sent back to prison

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has condemned the imprisonment of blogger Arash Sigarchi on 26 January 2006, four days after he was given a three-year sentence for "insulting the Supreme Guide" and "propaganda against the regime." Sigarchi is the author of one of the chapters in the "Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-dissidents" which Reporters Without Borders published last September.

Sigarchi's imprisonment is "arbitrary" and confirms that a new crackdown on bloggers is under way, the organisation said, calling for the young man's immediate release and urging the Iranian Supreme Court to reexamine his case and quash his unjust conviction.

The former editor of the daily "Gylan Emroz", Sigarchi has kept a political and cultural blog (http://www.sigarchi.com/blog) since 2002. He was arrested and imprisoned for two months in early 2005 and was then sentenced to 14 years in prison by a revolutionary tribunal.

He was released pending the outcome of his appeal. The appeal court reduced his sentence from 14 years to three years in prison on 9 June 2005, but he was not notified of the verdict until 22 January 2006. He decided to petition the Supreme Court, but when he went to the appeal court for a copy of the ruling, he was arrested and transferred to the main prison in the town of Rashat.

When a score of people were arrested in the autumn of 2004 on suspicion of contributing to pro-reform news websites, Sigarchi criticised the harassment and mistreatment of his colleagues in his blog.

In the chapter he wrote for the Reporters Without Borders handbook, he said Internet journalism would help to promote a diversity of views. He also maintained that, within a few years, his country's rulers would be forced to accept the free flow of information and to respect freedom of expression.

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