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Tehran pardons and frees Iranian-Canadian ‘Blogfather’

Iranian-Canadian blogger Hossein Derakhshan, shown in an undated photo, has been released from prison after receiving a pardon from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

A Canadian-Iranian writer credited with inspiring the blogging revolution in Iran has been released from prison after receiving a pardon from Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to an Iranian news agency.

Hossein Derakhshan, who is widely known as "the Blogfather," confirmed his release in a social media posting on Thursday morning. He was arrested in 2008 and sentenced in 2010 to 19 1/2years in prison for co-operating with hostile countries, spreading propaganda and insulting religious figures.

"I was released after six years," Mr. Derakhshan wrote on a social media account. He said he thanked God and was grateful to Ayatollah Khamenei. "Ashamed and grateful and indebted to my wife, my father and my mother, my sister and brother. The rest of my life," he added.

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An article by the Iranian news agency Mehr said Mr. Derakhshan was pardoned by Ayatollah Khamenei, but it was not immediately clear what prompted the decision.

Mr. Derakhshan grew up in Iran and worked as a journalist before moving to Toronto in 2000. He published instructions on how to blog in Farsi, sparking a surge in Iranian-language blogs.

He visited Israel in 2006, defying an Iranian ban on citizens travelling there.

Although Mr. Derakhshan had criticized Iran's government at times, he also spoke in support of the regime and Ayatollah Khamenei in the years leading up to his arrest. He was invited to visit Iran by one branch of the government in 2008, but arrested by another branch shortly after he arrived.

Mr. Derakhshan's former wife, Marjan Alemi, told the CBC in 2010 that he had spent most of the preceding two years in solitary confinement. However, the conditions of his detention appeared to improve significantly after he was sentenced.

The Western-based International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said on Thursday that it appeared Mr. Derakhshan had served some of his sentence outside of prison in recent years, but was required to return regularly and could not leave the country.

Mr. Derakhshan's pardon comes shortly after the United Nations adopted a Canadian-backed resolution on Tuesday condemning Iran's human rights record.

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A Foreign Affairs spokesperson said the department was aware of reports that a Canadian had been pardoned in Iran. "Despite these reports, we know that Iran's human rights abuses continue, targeting women, religious minorities, or anyone who peacefully exercises their fundamental rights to freedom of speech, assembly and association," François Lasalle wrote in an e-mail.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Kim Mackrael has been a reporter for The Globe and Mail since 2011. She joined the Ottawa bureau Sept. 2012. More

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