Iranian blogger detained

On December 30, 2008, a spokesman for the Iranian Judiciary confirmed in a press conference in Tehran that Hossein Derakhshan, an Iranian-Canadian blogger, had been detained since November 2008, in connection with comments he allegedly made about a key cleric, according to local and international news reports.

Judiciary spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi said Derakhshan was in investigative custody at a Revolutionary Court. He did not disclose precise charges against the blogger.

The exact date of Derakhshan’s arrest is unknown, but news of his detention first appeared on November 17 on Jahan News, a news Web site that according to international media reports is close to the Iranian intelligence apparatus. At the time, Jahan News reported that Derakhshan had confessed “spying for Israel” during the preliminary interrogation.

Derakhshan, who holds dual citizenship in Iran and Canada, started blogging after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. A former writer for reformist newspapers, Derakhshan also contributed opinion pieces to The Guardian of London and The New York Times.

Derakhshan visited Israel twice in the last three years as part of an effort to “humanize” Israel for Iranian readers, The Jerusalem Post reported. He traveled on his Canadian passport, news reports said. 

Derakhshan, who lived in Canada during most of this decade, returned to Tehran a few weeks prior to his detention, David Ignatius of The Washington Post reported.

Once a critic of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Derakhshan had recently become supportive of the administration. “Ahmadinejad’s brilliant strategy of dismissing Israel and smiling to the U.S. has divided the U.S. in all levels and that’s a big achievement,” he wrote in an October 6 posting to his blog.