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Iran's death sentence against Canadian in question

Reports that Iran has suspended the death sentence of Canadian Saeed Malekpour have not been officially confirmed, and his family remain concerned for his fate, an activist close to the family says.

The lawyer for Mr. Malekpour, on death row since 2010, has told Iran's Mehr new agency that the sentence has been commuted after he "repented," Agence France-Presse reported.

But in Canada, those campaigning for his release remain skeptical, noting that Iranian officials have in the past reinstituted death sentences they had supposedly commuted.

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"The family will not be speaking. It has not been confirmed," said Maryam Nayeb Yazdi, an activist working with Mr. Malekpour's family for his release. "No official documents from the judiciary have been issued."

Mr. Malekpour, a permanent resident of Canada, was arrested in December of 2008 in Iran when he returned to his native land to visit his dying father and accused of operating up an offensive website.

According to human rights groups and his family, the 37-year-old was found guilty in December of 2010 on three counts, including "designing and moderating adult content websites" and "insulting the sanctity of Islam."

Mr. Malekpour developed a program for posting pictures on the Internet and that it was used without his knowledge for the creation of porn sites, human rights group and his family said.

"My client was sentenced to death by a revolutionary court and the verdict was confirmed by the supreme court ... but he later repented," lawyer Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabee said.

"We now hope that my client will receive a reduced sentence," the lawyer added.

However, Ms. Nayeb Yazdi, the Toronto-based activist and editor of the website, said that Mr. Malekpour had written a letter in the summer asking for clemency, but that it was not a confession.

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In late January, Iran's supreme court confirmed the death sentence against Mr. Malekpour, Iranian media reported. The verdict provoked an international outcry.

In February, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton called on Iran to halt the execution while Canada and rights watchdog Amnesty International also called for Mr. Malekpour's immediate release.

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