The mullahs calling the shots in tech-hungry Iran are at it again.
Having failed to totally block Twitter, Instagram, and other social-media sites from the Iranian population, a judge ordered eight young Iranians to harsh prison sentences for posting on Facebook this week. Tehran authorities said the eight were guilty of using Facebook to post and promote inflammatory messages in a bid to weaken or overthrow the regime.
An Iranian activist in Virginia told VentureBeat that the mullahs’ so-called “Cyber Army of Iran,” which monitors Iranian Internet use, discerned serious traffic spikes, which led agents to the Facebook users.
“They will be tortured in prison for sure,” the activist said.
A Tehran judge ordered prison terms ranging from seven to 20 years. The Virginia-based activist said the group were accused of posting messages to Facebook the mullahs didn’t like.
According to Iranian media, the eight (listed here) were immediately incarcerated after the ruling.
Amir Golestani got 20 years of hard labor. Masoud Ghasemkhani, Fariborz Karfardar, Seyed Masoud Seyed Talebi, Amin Akramipour, Mehdi Reyshahri and Naghmeh Shirazi were all sent to jail.
Most of those sentenced were men. Naghmeh Shirazi and British national Roya Nobakht were the only two women among the group. For her efforts Nobakht, 47, received 20 years. Nobakht was thrown behind bars for posting a message “insulting Islamic sanctities,” according to the Independent. Nobakht fears she will be executed.
Nobakht was visiting from the U.K. when she was arrested and accused of being a spy. Her husband said she’s being detained at the notorious Evin prison in Tehran, known as a torture center to many Iranians, according to the Manchester Evening News.
All of their ages were not immediately available.
The sentences underscore the urgency of Iran’s Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to send messages to ‘Net savvy-Iranians that dissent will not be tolerated, including through social media outlets. Although there’s a “democratically” elected president, Khamenei is the de facto power, ruling with an iron fist.
Indeed, in an unrelated case, an Iranian judge earlier this week ordered Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg to appear in court to answer charges that Facebook and Instagram violated the privacy of users. Facebook owns Instagram.
Over the last year, people have been able to skirt the ban on social media with proxy servers or portable hotspots using Turkish IPs.
A regular Internet user in Tehran who asked not to be named for really obvious reasons put it this way: “We are doing great. I’m using my own hotspot and other people’s different VPNs.”