This week, eight Iranian students and adults were slapped with jail sentences ranging from seven to twenty years in prison for posting Facebook messages deemed inflammatory by the Islamic government. Their fate elicited a “no comment” Thursday from the Menlo Park-based company.
A Facebook spokesperson told VentureBeat there would be no response to the sentences, which were handed down earlier this week by an Iranian judge. Most of the group were arrested in April and were being held in Tehran’s dreaded Evin prison.
A Virginia-based Iranian activist also said that because the government accused the group of fomenting dissent and urging the overthrow of the state, the individuals without doubt faced torture and beatings while incarcerated.
One of the arrested was Roya Nobakht, 47, a British citizen who was nabbed while visiting family. She was convicted of “insulting Islamic sanctities” in her Facebook posts, according to British newspapers. She received a sentence of 20 years, and her husband in England told reporters he feared she would be executed.
An Iranian judge issued the sentence after members of the “Cyber Army of Iran” noticed large traffic spikes and tracked down the users, the same activist told VentureBeat. The unit monitors all Web traffic coming into and out of Iran, according to numerous sources who have faced its wrath.
Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have been banned in Iran, but Internet-savvy Iranians have found numerous ways to work around this by using proxy servers or portable hotspots synced to Turkish IPs.
The names of those sentenced are Amir Golestan, Masoud Ghasemkhani, Fariborz Karfardar, Seyed Masoud Seyed Talebi, Amin Akramipour, Mehdi Reyshahri, and Naghmeh Shirazi. Most were students in their 20s, according to the Virginia activist.
The sentences underscore the ferocity of the Tehran regime as it moves to liquidate dissent while sending a message those using social media to criticize the regime would be dealt with accordingly.
An active social media user living in Tehran told VentureBeat Thursday in an email that despite the ban, people were having little trouble logging in to the banned sites.
“I myself use hot spot shield on my cell phone, and it’s really working great. I don’t know the exact percentage, but people here use various kinds of VPNs, and yes, it is doing great.”