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Iranian web developer faces death over porn site charges

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An Iranian web developer faces the threat of execution over allegations he helped develop and promote pornographic websites in the strict Muslim country.

Saeed Malekpour, 35, only confessed to the "trumped up" offences after he was tortured The Guardian reports. Malekpour, a resident of Toronto, was arrested in October 2008 on his arrival back in Iran to visit his terminally ill father and later charged with a raft of serious offences, including insulting and desecrating the principles of Islam as well as alleged national security crimes.

His Toronto-based wife, Fatemeh Eftekhari, maintains that her husband's only offence was to develop photo-uploading software – which was then used by adult content websites without either his knowledge or consent.

Malekpour's arrest was part of a state-run crackdown on indecent websites which Iran's mullahs reckon are corrupting the nation's youth. The web designer has been held in Tehran's notorious Evin prison since his arrest, initially spending months in solitary confinement. A year after his arrest he appeared on state television to confess, a confession he later told his family by letter was made under duress.

Last week prosecutor general Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said two unnamed suspects had received death sentences for running porn websites.

Malekpour's case has been referred to the supreme court for confirmation but the outlook looks grim, especially since Iran has been hanging convicts at a rate of three a day since the start of the year, according to figures from the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI).

Human rights groups, including Amnesty International, are campaigning to save Malekpour's life. Lawrence Cannon, the Canadian foreign affairs minister, has criticised the severity of his sentence.

Supporters are staging rallies in Toronto to highlight the plight of Malekpour and fellow Canadian resident, Hamid Ghassemi-Shall, who has also been sentenced to death in Iran, the Toronto Star reports. Ghassemi-Shall, a shoe salesman in Canada, was condemned to death after he was convicted of espionage offences. ®

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