TEHRAN, March 19 (Reuters) - Iran has arrested a number of people accused of setting up anti-religious and obscene web sites as part of a foreign-backed plot to undermine the Islamic Republic, Iranian media reported on Thursday.
The semi-official Fars News Agency listed the initials of 26 people it said were involved in the case but it did not make clear whether all of them had been detained in an operation by the intelligence arm of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards.
They were part of networks supported by foreign security services, it said, without naming the countries.
“These people ... with the aim to take forward the enemies’ goals as part of the soft revolution project acted to launch a number of anti-religious, obscene and anti-revolutionary web sites,” Fars said.
Iran often accuses Western powers of seeking to undermine the Islamic state through a “soft” or “velvet revolution” with the help of intellectuals and others inside the country.
Iran and the West are embroiled in a dispute over Tehran’s nuclear programme, which the United States and some of its allies suspect is aimed at making bombs. Iran denies the charge.
The official IRNA news agency said those arrested were part of organised networks engaged in “evil projects”, including insulting Islam’s holy book the Koran, spreading moral deviation and “advertising to sell Iranian girls.”
“Thanks to God ... the main and active elements in these networks ... were identified, arrested and handed over to judiciary officials,” IRNA quoted a Guards statement as saying.
Young Iranians are avid users of the Internet, even though the authorities often block web sites which are deemed as having content contrary to Islamic values.
In December, Iran’s judiciary confirmed reports that a prominent Iranian-Canadian blogger had been detained and said his case was being investigated.
Canadian media said Hossein Derakhshan, who has been nicknamed the “Blogfather” for pioneering a blogging revolution in Iran, was being held on charges of spying for Tehran’s arch-foe Israel.
Derakhshan, 33, was a journalist in Tehran before moving to Toronto in 2000. He made his name by publishing instructions on how to use blogging software to publish blogs in Farsi, sparking an explosion of blogging in the Iranian language.
Writing by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by