Iran using Malekpour as 'pawn in a bloody chess game'
Vanessa Greco, CTVNews.ca
Published Monday, February 20, 2012 4:59PM EST
International condemnation has yet to persuade Iran to call off a Canadian resident's imminent execution, fuelling fears that he's being used as a political tool.
Saeed Malekpour, arrested in 2008 while visiting his ailing father in Iran, faces execution for purportedly spreading corruption through a web program he developed.
His sentence has been criticized by Canada's foreign affairs department and a swelling chorus of international voices including the U.S. State Department and the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office.
For their part, the Iranian regime has upheld the sentence. Though the punishment was stayed last year when Iran's Supreme Court ordered a judicial review into Malekpour's case, it was later reinstated. Confirmation of the sentence comes ahead of the country's March 2 election, which many are boycotting via the Internet.
Human rights activist Maryam Nayeb Yazdi said Iran is trying to make an example of the tech expert who is being held in the notorious Evin prison.
"Saeed Malekpour is being used as a pawn in a bloody chess game," she told CTV's Canada AM on Monday.
Iranian authorities carried out 600 executions in 2011 and imprisoned more journalists and bloggers than any other country, according to a report released by the New York-based Human Rights Watch.
Nayeb Yazdi said it isn't a coincidence that Iranian authorities chose to detain Malekpour whose career involves computers and web programming.
"One of the ways that the Iranian regime stays in power is by suppressing any type of information or knowledge in the country," she said in a studio interview in Toronto.
She said lawyers, university students and other "bright-minded people" are often targeted by those loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Malekpour has been accused of insulting Islam under Sharia law after someone used an Internet photo-uploading program he created to post pornography.
In late January, a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT) told CTVNews.ca Iran refuses to discuss Malekpour's case.
"Sadly, his case is one of many examples of Iran's utter disregard for human life," DFAIT spokesperson Aliya Mawani wrote.
"The Iranian government ignores legal principles such as due process for its citizens domestically, and fails to meet its international human rights obligations generally."
A motion by Tory MP Costas Menagakis asking Iran to "reverse it's current course" and release Malekpour has received unanimous support in the House of Commons.
Meanwhile, Malekpour remains in a cell in Evin which is controlled by the powerful Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Malekpour's family has been allowed to call him for a few minutes once a week and visit once a month, according to Nayeb Yazdi.
"However, it's been 40 days since their last visit and we're not sure what's going on with Saeed right now in prison," she added.
Nayeb Yazdi said she's pleading with the international community to continue asking Iran for a fair trial for Malekpour and others on death row.
"Saeed is at imminent danger of execution as we speak," she said. "We just want justice to be served."