Friday, April 3, 2009

blogger dies in custody

Blogger dies while in custody

An Iranian blogger sent to prison last month for insulting the country's religious leaders and making propaganda against the state has died under questionable circumstances, report ARTICLE 19, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Omidreza Mirsayafi died in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison on 18 March, just over a month after he was sentenced to more than two years in jail for posting comments on his blog about religious figures, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the 1979 revolution.

Prison authorities said Mirsayafi, who suffered from depression, committed suicide by overdosing on sedatives. But his family questions their findings, maintaining he would not have possessed enough medication to kill himself.  According to RSF, Hessam Firoozi, an imprisoned doctor who has treated some of Iran's best-known political activists and witnessed Mirsayafi's treatment, told Mirsafayi's lawyer that Mirsayafi's death could be attributed entirely to the prison's failure to provide medical assistance.

Mirsayafi was awaiting a further trial on charges of insulting "sacred Islamic values". The offences were allegedly committed on his now defunct blog, Rooznegaar, which focused mainly on Persian music and culture, says RSF.

Mirsayafi had consistently denied the charges against him, saying his blogs were not political in nature. He told RSF in a recent email that he would "not have the energy to live in prison."


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