Nobel laureate urges Iran to release "Blogfather"

LONDON (Reuters) - Iranian Nobel peace prize winner Shirin Ebadi called on Monday for the release of a pioneering Iranian blogger, who is reported to have been arrested on suspicion of spying for Israel.

Iran's Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi poses before an interview with Reuters in her office in Tehran March 16, 2008. REUTERS/Steve Crisp

Hossein Derakhshan, nicknamed “the Blogfather,” is credited with launching a blogging revolution in Iran with his Internet diaries, in both English and Farsi, which have in the past been critical of the Tehran government.

Canadian news reports have quoted a friend of Derakhshan, who is Iranian-Canadian, as saying he was arrested on November 1 during a visit to Iran. Other reports say he has been charged with spying for Israel.

Iranian human rights advocate Ebadi, who won the Nobel peace prize in 2003, said she had seen media reports about Derakhshan’s arrest.

“All I can say is that I very much hope that he will be released soon, because prison is not the place for journalists and for bloggers,” Ebadi, speaking through an interpreter, told a news conference in London.

Iranian judicial officials, when asked, said they had no information about the case.

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.

Critical of the Tehran government in the past, Derakhshan has recently been more sympathetic to Tehran.

Derakhshan's blog, "Editor: Myself" (, which he launched in 2002, has not been updated since October.

Derakhshan visited Israel in 2006. Shortly before flying to Tel Aviv, he wrote in his blog: “This might mean that I won’t be able to go back to Iran for a long time, since Iran doesn’t recognize Israel, has no diplomatic relations with it, and apparently considers traveling there illegal.

“Too bad, but I don’t care. Fortunately, I’m a citizen of Canada and I have the right to visit any country I want.”

Israel and Iran have been locked in a long-running war of words as Tehran presses ahead with its nuclear program in defiance of U.N. sanctions.

Reporting by Adrian Croft, additional reporting by Edmund Blair; Editing by Dominic Evans