Launched in January 2011 Iran’s Cyber Police are having an impact, and not just among ordinary internet criminals involved in hacking, scams or identity theft. For when the Cyber Police, known as The FTA, was launched, the chief of police, Ahmadi Moghaddam, made it clear this unit would have a wider agenda, namely taking on ‘anti-revolutionary’ or ‘dissident’ groups.
This has made using the web stressful for many, so much so that the Human Rights Group states that Iran arrested more journalists and bloggers than any other country in 2011. Christians who want to share their faith on the net or advertise their activities are also a target for the Cyber Police. Last month the home of Christian blogger Ali Reza Ebrahami in Gorgon was raided by the police.
The worst Cyber Police case to date is that of Sattar Beheshti, a thirty five year old factory labourer who liked to blog. Sometimes he was critical of the government. Mr. Beheshti was arrested by the Cyber Police on November 4th, 2012. A few days later he was dead. In parliament and elsewhere there has been outrage, not least because Mr. Beheshti was completely unknown, a Mr. Ordinary who happened to blog. So far seven people have been arrested, and President Ahmadinejad has sacked the head of the Cyber Police.
But still the message has gone out very clearly: when you use the web, be very careful and the risk of arrest causes stress.
• Cyber police to focus on criminal activity
• Protection for innocent bloggers
• Comfort for family of Sattar Beheshti