A couple of days after an appeals court in Egypt upheld the four-year jail sentence imposed on the blogger convicted of insulting Islam and President Mubarak (see Blogger Imprisoned), the Independent has an interview with Iran's most prominent blogger, Kianoosh Sanjari, who has just been released following three months in prison. His crime was writing an account in his blog describing a security forces attack against followers of one of Tehran's dissident clerics. He says the worse thing about his interrogations was "they wanted to connect me to US politicians, especially to [neo-conservative] Richard Perle. They wanted me to write about US money being allocated to the democracy movement. Where does it go? Who gets it?" The report goes on:
As tensions between Iran and Western countries have escalated over the nuclear crisis and the wars in Iraq and Lebanon, the authorities have come to regard democracy activists as a potential fifth column. Separatist attacks in border provinces have been blamed on the US and Britain.Which begs the question, how can we best support the sacrifices of individuals who are fighting for freedom in Egypt, Iran, Zimbabwe, and elsewhere around the world?
When Condoleezza Rice promised cash for Iranian democracy movements last year, activists and non-governmental organisations started to feel the heat.
"Such measures always have the reverse effect on the country to those intended," said Elaheh Koolaee, a former member of parliament and official for a major reformist party. "They increase the domestic reaction because of suspicions over the motives of foreign countries."