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Blogger Omidreza Mirsayafi dies in prison

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is deeply shocked at the death, in a Tehran prison, of blogger Omidreza Mirsayafi and calls for the immediate opening of an investigation into the circumstances of the tragedy. His lawyer, Mohamed Ali Dadkhah, was informed of the blogger's death by a doctor, Hesem Firozi, who is himself imprisoned. The young blogger had been depressed and no longer able to cope with prison conditions. The doctor said, "The death of this young blogger is entirely due to a failure to provide assistance." Omidreza Mirsayafi was devastated at the prison authorities' refusal to grant him leave.

"We hold the Iranian authorities entirely responsible for the death of Omidreza Mirsayafi. He was unfairly arrested and they failed to provide him with the necessary medical care," the worldwide press freedom organisation said. "His death is a sad reminder of the fact that the Iranian regime is one of the harshest in the world for journalists and bloggers. We call for the setting up of an independent commission to determine this young man's cause of death."

The blogger was summoned to Tehran's revolutionary court for interrogation on 7 February 2009. At the end of the questioning, he was placed in detention. To this date, his lawyers have still not received any notice of sentence from the court.

The blogger was first arrested on 22 April 2008 and then released after 41 days in custody on payment of bail of 100 million tomans (approx. 72,000 euros). He was tried on 2 November 2008 under Articles 500 and 514 of the criminal code under which "anyone who insults the Supreme Guide Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, or the country's leaders, is liable to six months to two years in prison (Art 514) and "anyone making propaganda against the state is liable to three months to one year in prison (Art. 500).

Most of the articles on Mirsayafi's blog were about traditional Persian music and about culture. After his conviction, he told Reporters Without Borders, "I am a cultural and not a political blogger. Of all the articles I have posted online, only two or three were satirical. I did not mean to insult anyone." His blog, Rooznegaar, is no longer accessible.

In a recent e-mail to Reporters Without Borders, Mirsayafi spoke about his distress: "I am worried. The problem is not my sentence of two years in prison. But I am a sensitive person. I will not have the energy to live in prison. I want everything to be like it was before. I want to resume my normal life and continue my studies."

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