The Story of how an Iranian programmer’s dream life turned into his worst nightmare

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Saeeed Malekpour in Canada before he was imprisoned in Iran. Photo courtesy of the Malekpour family.

Before his arrest in 2008

Saeed Malekpour was leading his dream life
He had graduated from Iran’s prestigious Sharif University of Technology, worked with some of the largest companies in the country, married his friend from school and moved with her from Iran to Canada to pursue new opportunities. They lived in Victoria, BC, his wife attended university and he brought in income by programming on a freelance basis.

The Iranian Cyber Army

A few years after Saeed had settled into his life in Canada, Iranian media sites circulated reports that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) had created the Iranian Cyber Army to hack and bring down websites considered by their standards obscene or immoral. Saeed didn’t know it at the time, but a photo uploading program he developed and sold to a client would soon become his worst nightmare.

The Life-Changing Call

In autumn 2008, during a phone call with his mother and sister, Saeed learned that his father, who suffered from a brain tumor, was near death. He flew back to Tehran to be with his father, but, just three days after he arrived, plainclothes IRGC agents kidnapped him off the streets, blindfolded him and held him in a detention center where they beat him severely.

The agents eventually moved Saeed to a solitary confinement cell located in a ward in Evin Prison completely controlled by the IRGC (the ward doesn’t fall under prison jurisdiction). Saeed spent almost a year in solitude without access to the outside world or his basic prisoner rights.

The Interrogations & Empty Promises

The agents accused him of moderating multiple x rated websites, but were fixated on one in particular that had Saeed’s name in the source code. Saeed insisted to the agents that he had no idea the photo uploading program he created was used on the website. The agents ignored his pleas and continued to torture him until he agreed to tell them whatever they wanted to hear. The agents promised Saeed that if he participated in the confessions, they would release him on bail until his trial. They repeatedly promised him that cooperating would mean that he would receive a maximum of two years in prison. Saeed gave the agents more than 30 hours of videotaped confessions, they assured him that the video recording was intended for internal purposes only.

The Deceit of the IRGC Agents

When his father died, he didn’t find out until a few months after, when the agents finally gave him his first prison visit. To rub salt in the wound and leave Saeed further devastated, his videotaped confessions were broadcast on national television, and on the day of his father’s mourning ceremony.

Letter of Torture

When Saeed realized that the agents were not planning to live up to their promises, he found a way to smuggle out a letter he wrote detailing the tortures he endured. His family sent the letter to all of the head authorities in Iran, but no one responded. Out of desperation for the authorities to hear Saeed’s voice, the family gave the letter to human rights groups who published it online.

Sentenced to Death

In October 2010 an Iranian court sentenced Saeed to death for moderating multiple pornographic websites. The only evidence the authorities brought against him in court were the forced confessions. Saeed was not given access to his lawyer or the chance to defend himself.

Death Sentence Called Off

Once the letter of torture was filed with the United Nations, it was harder for Iran’s Supreme Court to confirm the death sentence, especially when the sole evidence against Saeed were forced confessions. The death sentence was called off in winter 2011 and a new trial was ordered to investigate the case’s discrepancies, which included the allegations of torture.

Sentenced to Death Once Again

In autumn 2012 a new trial was held, but it only lasted a few minutes — Saeed was not given access to a lawyer, nor were investigations made into the discrepancies. The same judge who had sentenced him to death in 2010 sentenced him to death once again. This time the IRGC agents held a tighter grip on the case file and made sure the Supreme Court confirmed the death sentence, even though the discrepancies remained unresolved.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Intervenes

Saeed continued to live with the fear of execution until summer 2014 when Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei commuted his death sentence to life in prison.

Still, #LifesNotFair

Saeed is still being held in Evin Prison on a life sentence without any investigation into his allegations of torture and with no evidence to support the charges against him.


Saeed was 33 when he entered prison and on June 5th he will be turning 40, his fate remains unknown. All that we do know is that the only hope left for Saeed is Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader has the power to determine Saeed’s fate.

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How to Help Saeed

Use resources at your disposal to gain the attention of Iran’s leadership

Spread the word about Saeed’s plight to your friends, fans and followers. Your popularity on social media can serve as an important tool to raise awareness about Saeed’s plight and as a result increase the chance of Ali Khamenei hearing:

  1. that it is unfair for Iranian authorities to continue to hold Saeed on a life sentence when the only evidence to support the charges against him are the forced confessions.
  2. The Supreme Leader has already done the right thing by calling off Saeed’s death sentence, now it is time for him to act fairly by releasing Saeed from prison and ordering an investigation into the discrepancies in his case.
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Twitter Action

  1. Iran’s leader did Right Thing by calling off execution, time for Fair Thing: Quash His Life Sentence. #LifesNOTFair, #FreeSaeedMalekpour.
  2. Only evidence Iran has to support the charges against Saeed are confessions he gave under torture #LifesNotFair
  3. #LifesnotFair What’s fair is for @Khamenei_ir to drop the charges and #FreeSaeedMalekpour + Order an investigation into torture allegations
  4. June 5 is Saeed Malekpour’s 40th, He’s in Evin, been there since he was 33. This is his 7th Birthday behind bars. #HBDSaeed You’re Not Alone
TIP: Tweet to celebrities and techies and Twitter users with large followings and ask them to act in solidarity with Saeed by wishing him a happy 40th birthday. Promote #HBDSaeed and/or #LifesNotFair

Facebook Action

  1. Post photos and links about Saeed Malekpour on the Facebook pages or groups you own or are a part of. You can find plenty of resources on the campaign page for Saeed Malekpour.
TIP: Leave comments for celebrities and techies and ask them to post about Saeed to draw attention to his case, making sure to provide a link to more information about Saeed.
Courtesy of Amnesty International Toronto’s Iran Action Circle

Street Action


  1. If there is an Iranian embassy near you, organize a gathering outside the embassy to draw attention to Saeed’s case in hopes of getting the attention of Iran’s leadership. Send photos and videos from your event to the campaign’s Facebook page.
  2. Hold a birthday gathering for Saeed, take photos and video shots and send over to the campaign’s Facebook page.
  3. Record a solidarity message and post online, making sure to send a link to the campaign’s Facebook page.
Please feel free to use this photo of Saeed’s supporters gathered outside the Iranian embassy in Ottawa in 2012.