Sina Dehghan, a 21-year-old man, was sentenced in Iran to death over criticizing Islam on an app. He was arrested by security forces on October 21, 2015, at a military barracks in Tehran. Dehghan was charged under article 262 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code for ‘insulting the prophet’ of Islam; a criminal charge which is punishable by death.
Dehghan was convicted at the Penal Court of the city of Arak over critical comments he had made against Islam and the Quran on the LINE instant messaging application.
LINE had announced in late 2015 that it added an end-to-end encryption to its mobile messaging app; therefore it is unclear how Dehghan’s messages have reached the possession of the Iranian police. In 2016, Iranian authorities pressured the instant messaging app Telegram ‘to cooperate in censorship or face blocking’. The company was given one year to comply with the Supreme Council on Cyberspace’s demand to store data on Iranian users within the country.
An informed source told the Center of Human rights in Iran:
“During his interrogation, Sina was told that if he signed a confession and repented, he would be pardoned and let go. Unfortunately, he… accepted the charges. Then they sentenced him to death. Later he admitted that he signed the confession hoping to get freed”
Dehghan sought a judicial review of the death sentence. Despite the fact that his confession was extracted from him under duress, on January 2017 the Supreme Court of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the highest judicial authority in the country, upheld the execution sentence.
According to the Freedom House’s 2016 Freedom of the Net report, Iran is marked as ‘Not Free’. Social media platforms are being blocked, political and social content is being censored and bloggers are being arrested for expressing their opinions online. The press freedom in the state is also marked as not free.
Among the arrested bloggers, noted the Cartoonist Hadi Heidari who was held behind bars for 8 months for posting a cartoon on Facebook sympathising with the French following the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris.