The sister of convicted Iranian website designer Saeed Malekpour maintains that her brother is innocent and that his trial in Iran was unfair.
Her comments come just days after Iran’s Supreme Court confirmed Malekpour’s death sentence.
Malekpour, who was a resident of Canada, was arrested in 2008 after returning to Iran to visit his ailing father. He was taken to Tehran's notorious Evin prison, where he spent a year in solitary confinement.
Malekpour was sentenced to death in 2010 on a number of charges, including "designing and moderating adult-content websites" -- activities that are considered un-Islamic.
The 35-year-old's sentence was confirmed on January 16 by Iran's Supreme Court, to the dismay of a number of rights watchdogs.
His sister, Maryam Malekpour, speaking to RFE/RL’s Radio Farda from Tehran on January 18, said her brother was not involved in any illegal activity.
She said a computer program he had written and put his name on was used by pornographic websites to upload pictures.
"All of Saeed’s activities were within the law,” Maryam Malekpour said. “He didn’t commit anything illegal. Saeed just wrote a computer program that could have been used by these immoral websites or any other website. Unfortunately, without his knowledge, the program was sold and used to upload photos on these immoral websites."
Malekpour said there were "shortcomings" in the legal case against her brother that were not addressed by the court. One, she said, was the absence of a computer specialist, which Saeed and his lawyers demanded but were denied.
Malekpour also questioned the televised confessions her brother made in 2010 in which he admitted to all of the charges against him. She said the confessions were extracted under duress.
"All the evidence they have against him is from his confessions,” she said. “Saeed was in solitary confinement for about one and a half years and was under extreme physical and emotional pressure. For sure, anyone who is in this condition and wants it to end will confess to anything they’re asked."
Malekpour said she believes that one of the reasons behind her brother's imprisonment and conviction could be his ties to Canada. Canadian media said he was awaiting citizenship at the time of his arrest.
Canada has joined the United States and European countries in stepping up sanctions on Iran in recent months, amid mounting concern as to the nature of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program and in response to the country's abysmal human rights record.
Malekpour said that despite releasing statements calling for Saeed’s release, Canadian authorities have done little to help her brother’s cause.
"On a few occasions they released statements,” she said. “But they don’t realize the urgency of his case. In reality, Saeed’s condition is critical and he is one step from death. Moreover, Saeed is innocent."
In a January 17 statement, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird condemned the Iranian Supreme Court's decision.
Malekpour said her own letters to Iranian judicial officials defending her brother have gone unanswered. She has pledged to continue her efforts and said she remains hopeful.
In recent years, executions in the Islamic Republic have been on the rise.
According to Amnesty International, Iran executed at least 600 people between the beginning of 2011 and the end of November.
based on RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports