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Judge Responsible For Filtering Internet Sentenced For Corruption

Iran- Bijan Qasimzadeh, j
Iran- Bijan Qasimzadeh, j

A former investigator judge with the Tehran Prosecutor's Office, Bijan Qassemzadeh Sangroudi, is sentenced to "permanent dismissal from government service, ten years in prison, confiscation of properties achieved through bribery, and payment of a fine" for receiving bribery from local news outlets in Iran, as reported on Saturday, September 12.

Qasemzadeh's name was mentioned in the high-profile legal case related to financial corruption and bribery, led by the former deputy of the Islamic Republic's judiciary, Akbar Tabari.

Tabari served as the former deputy head of administrative affairs at the judiciary and was later promoted to be the head of executive affairs and then executive deputy under then judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani from 2009 to 2019.

In its ruling, Tehran's criminal court sentenced Tabari to 31 years in jail and ordered him to pay more than 430 billion rials ($1.65 million) in fines. It also ordered the seizure of illegally acquired properties.

Qassemzadeh Sangroudi was one of the 22 defendants in Tabari's case.

Nevertheless, the real reason behind his "fame" goes back to the case of filtering Telegram messages on May 10, 2017, when his order blocked the most popular messaging app in Iran.

The Telegram instant messaging service has more than fifty million users in Iran, and 60% of the country's Internet's bandwidth is spent on using this app.

In the heat of protests on December 8, 2017, Telegram was blocked for more than a week and finally became available again on December 23, 2017.

Once again, it was reblocked on May 10, 2017, by Sangroudi's order. The judicial declaration of the Tehran Prosecutor's Office said at the time that ISPs must block Telegram in a way that nobody could have access to it even with filter breakers or tools similar to VPNs.

Within two days, the popular app was filtered by every ISP operating nationwide.

The judicial order triggered rumors about ICT Minister Jahromi's resignation, which he was later forced to deny. However, the ICT Ministry released a statement criticizing the judicial order and stating that it's impossible to restrict the flow of information online.

Meanwhile, Rouhani's government has repeatedly been accused of secretly considering the topic of blocking access to Telegram, with Rouhani recently insisting on April 3, 2018, that Iran is not planning to ban the popular messaging application Telegram.

Reacting to reports about the possible banning of the application, Rouhani explained in a meeting with high-ranking state officials that introducing homegrown messaging applications aims to put an end to Telegram's monopoly on messaging in Iran.

The two-time experience of blocking Telegram in Iran shows that Iranian users did not migrate to alternative services, such as the foreign WhatsApp or the domestic Soroush messenger, but resorted to Internet censorship circumvention, BBC reported on June 6, 2018.