By Iran Probe staff
Friday, 28 April 2017
Three Iranians behind a Telegram group allowing users to debate and share their thoughts, have been arrested, tried and sentenced to a total of 36 years behind bars.
Reports indicate branch 15 of Tehran’s revolutionary court, chaired by Judge Salavati, convened on April 10th for this case. Based on a ruling issued on April 24th the three by the names of Alireza Tavakoli, Mohammad Mehdi Zamanzadeh and Mohammad Mohajer were each sentenced to 5 years for “insulting the sanctities”, another 5 years for “association and collusion against national security” and two more years for “insulting the revolution founder and leader”, adding to a total of 12 years for each individual.
“Writing insulting texts on Telegram” was also mentioned in the court hearing. Sources indicate these three individuals were posting political satire or text on Facebook and Telegram, or text from others. Most of the charges raised against them focused on a Telegram group that debated political and religious issues. The three were deprived of any access to a lawyer during the interrogation process in ward 209 of Tehran’s Evin Prison, described as the “initial investigation.”
Social media network limitations in Iran
20% of Telegram’s 100 million users are Iranian, according to Telegram founder Pavel Durov. Furthermore, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme Cyberspace Council has said 24 million people use Telegram in Iran.
A reason behind the high number of Telegram users is that other social media platforms have been filtered due to the events following the 2009 presidential election.
Around 16,000 to 20,000 Telegram channels are filtered each week in Iran, according to the regime’s public prosecutor Mohammad Jafar Montazeri.
10 days ago, only four days after Telegram launched its voice service, this tool was blocked under an order issued by the Iranian judiciary.
“No one wants to use this tool. However, after evaluating this capability, Iran’s entire intelligence, security and military apparatus declared this tool specifically endangers the country’s security,” Montazeri said.
“Telegram telephones were blocked because otherwise we would not be able to control anything,” said Hossein Nejat, deputy of the Revolutionary Guards Intelligence Organization.