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Iran arrests blogfather for spying

The Guardian and The Times are reporting today on the arrest of Iranian blogger, Hossein Derakhshan, who has been accused of spying for Israel.

Derakhshan has the enviable nickname the “blogfather” for his efforts in kick starting the Iranian blogging revolution – so far the only casualties of which have been the bloggers themselves.

He was arrested after returning to Tehran a few weeks ago having lived in the UK and Canada. He had been publicly critical of Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, calling him a “hardline reactionary”.

Derakhshan had previously visited Israel as he wanted to show Iranian readers what “Israel really looked like and how people live there”. He said he also wanted to “humanise” Iranians for Israelis.  His reward for that slice of humanity was a visit from the Revolutionary Guards.

According to the Iranian website Jahan News, which is said to be linked to linked to the Iranian intelligence services, Derakhshan “confessed” during interrogation to being involved in espionage. Jahan News  also said he had been described in Jewish newspaper articles as a “friend of Israel”.

The Guardian quoted him as saying:  “Iran doesn’t recognise Israel, has no diplomatic relations with it … Too bad, but I don’t care. Fortunately, I am a citizen of Canada and I have the right to visit any country I like. I’m going to Israel as a citizen journalist and a peace activist.”

His blog has been blocked by Iranian government since 2004 and he founded Stop censoring us blog to watch the situation of internet censorship in Iran. The last post to his English language blog was on October 6.

That post marked one of a few that had seen him start to distance himself from Israel and praise Ahmadinejad.

“Ahmadinejad’s brilliant strategy of dismissing Israel and smiling to the U.S. has divided the the U.S. in all levels and that’s a big achievement comparing to Khatami’s weak and failed U.S. strategy that led to Iran being part of the ‘axis of evil’. Now the same Bush administration has officially opened the diplomatic line. Please get over Ahmadinejad’s scruffy look, prayers, and plain language and see these achievements.”

He had also defended Iran’s right to nuclear weapons for defensive purposes, and said he would return to defend Iran if America ever attacked. “I can’t let myself to sit down for a moment and watch make a Baghdad out of Tehran”.

The concillatory tone could be seen as an volte face or alternatively it could be seen as the reality of living and blogging back in Iran, which ever it was it did not affect the attitude of the regime.