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Iranian-Canadian blogger faces death penalty

Blogger hailed as the father of Iranian blogging

A Canadian-Iranian blogger credited with starting the blogging movement in Iran faces the death penalty over his writings, two watchdog groups said Thursday.

Hossein Derakhshan was arrested after returning to Iran in November 2008 and charged with "collaborating with enemy states, creating propaganda against the Islamic regime, insulting religious sanctity, and creating propaganda for anti-revolutionary groups," said Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) and PEN Canada.

According to the two organizations, prosecutors are now calling for Derakhshan to face the death penalty after he was convicted by Tehran's revolutionary court earlier this year.

News of the sentencing request started filtering out on social media sites on Monday, and the CJFE and PEN said they confirmed the reports with his family.

"The proposed sentence is a travesty," said CJFE president Arnold Amber, calling on the Canadian government to intervene.

"Action must be taken right away because in Iran there is not necessarily a lengthy period before executions can be carried out. We are very concerned," he added.

Catherine Loubier, spokeswoman for Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, told AFP that Ottawa was "preoccupied" by reports Derakhshan may be executed and was seeking verification of the facts.

The Canadian government has also sought consular access to him.

However any further help Canada may provide in this case is "limited," Loubier said, as Tehran does not recognize dual citizenship.

Derakhshan is the third Canadian journalist to be arrested in Iran in recent years. In July 2003, Canadian-Iranian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi died in prison, and Newsweek correspondent Maziar Bahari was briefly detained earlier this year.