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Iranian Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi
Iran’s Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi has publicly admitted hacking into the e-mail of opposition members.

Moslehi was quoted by Iranian news agencies, including ILNA, as saying that e-mails were the most important tool of communication between opposition members during last year’s postelection protests and that the Intelligence Ministry could break into them and defeat “ the enemy."

“One of the officials, in his speech, out of carelessness, announced that we have access to the e-mails. Within 24 hours, they coded and password-protected their e-mails," Moslehi said. "Of course, we in the Intelligence Ministry broke those passwords within 48 hours.”

Moslehi is quoted as saying that e-mails were being exchanged between “foreigners and their elements inside Iran."

Moslehi, who was speaking at a December 25 conference on the achievements of Iranian expatriates at Tehran’s Shahid Beheshti University, said that Iran managed to control “many dimensions” of the postelection protests by monitoring e-mail.

He was also quoted as accusing the United States of launching online networks against the Islamic republic.

“In the events of [last year’s] sedition, [U.S. President Barack Obama] said that they have designed extensive virtual networks to fight the Iranian regime, but because of the strength of our intelligence services they didn’t have the power to face us,” he said.

During last year’s postelection unrest, Tehran’s police chief, Esmail Ahmadi Moghadam, warned that those who encourage others to participate in “riots through e-mails and SMS" will be dealt with.

In the postelection trials, it was reported that several political activists were charged over e-mails and text messages they had sent.

In the months that followed, I received an e-mail from a student activist who had been released from jail after paying a large bail. In the e-mail, the student expressed regret about his past stances and said that he was quitting the reformist student group he was a senior member of.

His close friends, who also received the e-mail, told me that the e-mail had been sent by intelligence officers who had access to the e-mail of the student. The student had to be hospitalized due to pressure tactics he had been subjected to in prison.

Some students and activists have said that their interrogators asked them for their e-mail passwords following their release from jail.

Therefore, Moslehi’s comments about monitoring the e-mail of opposition activists don’t come as a surprise.

At the same time, as one Tehran-based activist told "Persian Letters," Moslehi's comments could also be aimed at creating fear among opposition members who rely heavily on the Internet, e-mails, and social networking sites, including Facebook, to connect with each other, to spread news about arrests and the plight of jailed activists, and news related to the opposition movement.

Despite tough filtering, warnings, arrests, and other measures, Iranian authorities have not managed to fully control the Internet, and opposition activists remain active there.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari
Human rights groups and activists are expressing concern over the imminent execution of a Kurdish student, Habibollah Latifi, who has been accused of terrorist activities.

Iranian websites have quoted Latifi's lawyer, Saleh Nikbakht, as saying that he’s been informed that Latifi would be hanged on the morning of December 26.

Latifi, a 27-year-old engineering student, has been reportedly sentenced to death on charges of moharebeh (waging war against God). Authorities have said that he is a member of armed opposition groups.

He’s been accused of involvement in several explosions in Sanandaj as well as filming them and taking pictures. He’s also been reportedly accused of involvement in an assassination attempt on the life of a Sanandaj prosecutor and also an attack on a police station. He is said to have denied the charges against him.

Human Rights Watch has called on Iran’s judiciary to immediately rescind the execution order for Latifi:

The circumstances surrounding Latifi's arrest, detention, and conviction strongly suggest that the Iranian authorities have violated his fundamental rights," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "As in numerous previous security cases, intelligence agents appear to have subjected Latifi to torture and a court sentenced him to death without any convincing evidence against him. The head of Iran's judiciary should immediately rescind the execution order.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has also called on Iranian authorities to halt the “unfair sentence” against Latifi and allow the case to be reviewed by a judge independent of security forces:

The Campaign believes this ruling must be challenged to bring attention to the ever-increasing influence of intelligence-security forces over the Iranian Judiciary and in determining outcomes of trials. The Campaign believes these intelligence-security forces are ultimately pushing towards large scale political executions and any silence in the face of such politically-motivated executions could lead to devastating results in the condition of Iranian political prisoners.

Latifi’s family are reportedly making their last effort to save him from execution. Rights activists have launched a petition to save Latifi from hanging. A Facebook campaign has been also launched and some activists have changed their profile pictures with pictures of Latifi to bring attention to his case.

Latifi, who was arrested in 2007, is being held at Sanandaj prison. Reports say he is suffering from kidney failure and heart problems.

Human Rights Watch says Latifi is one of at least 16 Kurds facing execution on various national security-related charges including moharebeh.

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About This Blog

Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.

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