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Several Social Media Admins Summoned To Court

The head of Provincial Judiciary in Tehran Gholamhossein Esmaeili.

Several admins of Telegram social media channels have been summoned to courts for violating electoral regulations, reported the head of Tehran province judiciary.

Telegram, which is mainly a chat app, has become the most popular social media tool in Iran.

The official government news agency, IRNA, quoted Gholam Hossein Esma’ili on Saturday, June 3, 2017, as saying, “There are also 150 legal cases under investigation for electoral violations in Tehran and other cities of the province.”

Esma’ili has not elaborated on the details of the legal cases and the exact number of persons summoned.

Prior to May 19 presidential election, Iran’s Attorney General, Mohammad Ja’far Montazeri and several other judiciary officials, as well as security authorities had warned authorities would monitor social media for possible election related infractions.

Employing Telegram channels for candidates’ campaigns was one of the unique features of the recent elections in Iran. Supporters of the incumbent, Hassan Rouhani, and his main challenger, Ebrahim Raeisi, accused each other of buying-up popular Telegram channels for their own campaign purposes.

Earlier, twelve Telegram admins close to Rouhani’s government and its reformists ally were detained. Six of them are still behind bars.

“Eight suspect admins are indicted and their cases have been presented to the courts,” judiciary spokesman, Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei, announced on Wednesday, 31 May.

A day earlier, thirty MPs had asked the Intelligence Minister to report on the situation of the detainees, the reason behind their arrest and the procedure for their trial.

Meanwhile, the outspoken Tehran MP, Mahmoud Sadeqi, President Rouhani’s Advisor, Hessamoddin Ashna and several other members of pro-government Omid fraction in the parliament indicated that the admins were arrested allegedly for their ties to the incumbent’s campaign.

Furthermore, Rouhani and his minister of Intelligence, Mahmoud Alavi asserted their opposition to the detentions.

But the judiciary spokesman claimed the admins were arrested for publishing information harmful to the country’s security.

On April 16, 2017, at the verge of presidential campaigns, Telegram voice communication service was officially shut down just two days after it was launched. No reports have been received on its reactivation so far.