Hossein Derakhshan, the Canadian-Iranian blogger arrested in 2008, is now facing the death penalty in Iran. A rumor made the rounds today that Hoder, as he is known to fellow bloggers, had already been sentenced to death. This rumor is apparently false.

Instead, several sources indicate the official who is heading up the prosecution of Hoder for a host of alleged crimes including spying and blasphemy is pursuing the death penalty.

The Blogfather

Derakshan first came to public notice for establishing and popularizing a method of using Unicode to adapt the Persian language to the Blogger.com platform. Since that time, Iran has become one of the most blogging nations in the world, and Hoder's work earned him the sobriquet "the blogfather." Hoder had left Iran in 2000 after the opposition newspaper he was working for was shut down in one of Iran's periodic crackdowns. He immigrated to Canada and lived in Toronto.

Hoder had contributing to the founding of Global Voices, attending its first meeting and coining the term "bridge blogger" for those who wrote in one country but for a global audience.

Subsequently, in 2006, he traveled to and blogged from Israel, a groundbreaking trip.

Challenging the Image of Israel

"This might mean that I won't be able to go back to Iran for a long time... I don't care. Fortunately, I'm a citizen of Canada and I have the right to visit any country I want... As a citizen journalist, I'm going to show my 20,000 daily Iranian readers what Israel really looks like and how people live there. The Islamic Republic has long portrayed Israel as an evil state, with a consensual political agenda of killing every single man and woman who prays to Allah, including Iranians. I'm going to challenge that image."

Change of Heart

By the end of 2006, Hoder had changed the tone of his writing substantially. Believing that a U.S. attack on Iran was possible, he proclaimed he'd return to his homeland to fight such an invasion. After that, Hoder's commentary grew more strident, alienating a lot of his former colleagues with his apparently impassioned defense of the Ahmadinejad regime.

In October of 2008 he returned home to Tehran. He was arrested on Nov. 1. He was accused of spying for Israel, among other charges.

"Hossein has been accused of 'collaborating with enemy states, doing propaganda against Islamic regime, insulting religious sanctities and doing propaganda for anti-revolutionary groups.'"

You Can't Go Home Again

A number of different theories have arisen regarding Hoder. Among them: He truly had changed his mind about the Iranian regime; he hadn't changed his mind but wrote as he did so he would be allowed home; he didn't believe any of it but did it so he could go to Iran for a substantial visit and report things from the inside; it was a publicity stunt; he was a man whose arrogance led him to believe he would be an exception and not arrested, despite his previous criticism of the Iranian regime and his visit to Israel.

Regardless of why he did what he did at any given time, he deserves due process, which he has not been given even in the Iran's contradictory judicial context. He does not deserve to be held with little to no communication with the outside world. He does not deserve to be tortured, which is common with Iranian political prisoners.

He does not deserve to die for expressing his opinion online.

Since his arrest, his website, which contained blogs in both Persian and English, have shut down and his website for his return to Iran has been taken over with hair treatment spam. For more context on Hoder's situation you could do worse than Ethan Zuckerman's post from last year. There is a Free Hoder site, but it has not been posted to since April.

Drawing of Hoder from For Hossein | photo from Wikimedia Commons
Hoder was, briefly and early on, an advisor to the Committee to Protect Bloggers, the organization I started in 2004.