middle east

Iranian web programmer faces execution on porn charges

This makes me so angry.

Iranian web programmer faces execution on porn charges

A 35-year-old Iranian web programmer is facing imminent execution in connection with developing and promoting porn websites, charges that his family insist are trumped up.

Saeed Malekpour, a permanent resident of Canada who was arrested in October 2008 after his arrival in Tehran, is convicted of designing and moderating adult content websites, acting against the national security, insulting and desecrating the principles of Islam, and agitating the public mind.

Speaking from Toronto, Malekpour’s wife, Fatemeh Eftekhari, said her husband has been informed of the verdict and has been transferred to solitary confinement for the sentence to be administered if the supreme court sanctions it. She says her husband was a web programmer who had written photo uploading software that was used in a porn website without his knowledge.

Human rights groups have expressed alarm over a sharp increase in the use of capital punishment in Iran. According to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI), 121 people have been hanged between 20 December 2010 and 31 January this year. An ICHRI report published in mid-January said that Iran has hanged an average of one person every eight hours since the beginning of the new year.

Last week prosecutor general Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi told reporters in Tehran that two people had been sentenced to death for running porn websites, without naming the convicts.

“Two administrators of porn sites have been sentenced to death in two different court branches and the verdicts have been sent to the supreme court for confirmation,” Dolatabadi was quoted by IRNA state news agency as saying.

Malekpour, who has been kept in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison for the past two years, was arrested by plainclothes officers and was initially kept in solitary confinement for almost a year without access to legal representation.

“For a long period we even didn’t know that he was arrested,” Eftekhari said. According to Eftekhari, Malekpour’s arrest was in the face of a new crackdown by Iranian government on “indecent” websites in 2008 to fight what they had described as “the campaign launched by western governments to corrupt Iranian youth”.

A year after his arrest Malekpour was put on state television to confess. He later retracted the confessions in a letter sent from inside prison in which he said they were taken under duress.

“A large portion of my confession was extracted under pressure, physical and psychological torture, threats to myself and my family, and false promises of immediate release upon giving a false confession to whatever the interrogators dictated,” he writes in the letter.

“Once in October 2008 the interrogators stripped me while I was blindfolded and threatened to rape me with a bottle of water.” He went on to say: “While I remained blindfolded and handcuffed, several individuals armed with cables, batons, and their fists struck and punched me. At times, they would flog my head and neck. Such mistreatment was aimed at forcing me to write what the interrogators were dictating, and to compel me to play a role in front of the camera based on their scenarios.”

Eftekhari said: “Even if my husband’s charges were true, which they are not, it’s hard to imagine why he should be sentenced to death. I think Iran is trying to intimidate the opposition or any sign of protest by sentencing an unprecedented numbers of prisoners to death.”

Malekpour’s sentence has prompted reactions from human rights activists and organisations who have launched a campaign to save his life. Lawrence Cannon, the Canadian foreign affairs minister, has also expressed concerns over his sentence.

Gloria Nafziger of Amnesty International in Canada, an organisation which has sought for Malekpour’s sentence to be commuted said: “Amnesty International is very concerned that Saeed Malekpour is facing a death sentence in Iran after an unfair trial and reports that he was tortured in order to confess to his crimes.”

Last month Iran executed Zahra Bahrami, a Dutch-Iranian woman convicted of drug smuggling, which resulted in a freeze of the Dutch diplomatic contacts with Iran.



Answers to Apologetic Claims about DNA and the Book of Mormon

Answers to Apologetic Claims about DNA and the Book of Mormon

The following are some of the most frequently advanced arguments from the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) and the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR) related to DNA and the Book of Mormon—most notably (or at least most succinctly) in the latter’s brochure, Is an Historical Book of Mormon Compatible with DNA Science? Since these claims have gained some currency within LDS circles and I am frequently asked about them by individuals who have either read my book or otherwise tried to follow developments in this area, I have concluded that it would be best to summarize my responses in an equally succinct manner.

“However, such a scenario [as suggested by Mormon apologists] does not square with what the Book of Mormon plainly states and with what the prophets have taught for 175 years.”

1. The Book of Mormon does not present a testable hypothesis.

Some LDS scientists argue that the Book of Mormon does not present a testable hypothesis and that, since other scientists are not testing the Book of Mormon directly, the data collected by non-Mormon scientists is irrelevant to the origin of Book of Mormon people. The question scientists are asking is: “Who are the ancestors of the American Indians?” In fact, about 7,300 American Indians have been DNA tested in scientific experiments aimed at discovering where their founding ancestors came from. The Book of Mormon claims in its introduction that the Book of Mormon people (the Lamanites) “are the principal ancestors of the American Indians.” Most LDS adherents believe, and all the LDS prophets have taught, that Israelites are the principal ancestors of the American Indians. It is therefore absurd to claim that what the scientists are discovering about Indian heritage is irrelevant. Scientists are inadvertently asking the same question posed by the Book of Mormon, and LDS beliefs about Indian ancestry fall squarely into the scientific field of anthropology. Molecular anthropologists are uncovering evidence that is directly relevant to LDS beliefs in this area.

2. Mitochondrial DNA only tells us about one ancestral line out of many. If we go back ten generations, it only tells us about 1 in 1,024 of our ancestors. If we go back another ten generations, it only tells us about 1 in over a million of our ancestors.

On the surface this argument appears impressive; but it is an argument with little substance. The vast majority of mitochondrial lineages found throughout the world can be grouped into less than twenty-five major family groups represented by letters A, H, X, and so on. If we look at American Indians, essentially all of their mitochondrial lineages fall into one of five major families: A, B, C, D or X, none of which were derived from Israel. If we go back twenty generations, we are not talking about millions of unknowable mitochondrial lineages in an American Indian’s pedigree chart. We are talking about five lineages. All of those million-odd ancestral slots would be occupied by the same five regional mitochondrial lines. Even those that end up in males and are not passed on to the next generation came from the same five sources. It is possible that some lineages may not have been detected yet or have been lost in time through chance, but these would have been very rare mitochondrial family lines.