Iranian bloggers Saeed Malekpour and Vahid Asghari are to be executed on charges of spreading corruption.
Journalists Shahram Manouchehri, Sahamedin Bourghani, Parastoo Dokouhaki, and Marzieh Rasouli, were also arrested and could face the death penalty, in what is being seen as the country’s latest crackdown on freedom of expression ahead of the March elections.
US State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland told AFP: “We are deeply concerned by the alarming increase in the Iranian regime’s efforts to extinguish all forms of free expression and limit its citizens’ access to information in the lead up to March parliamentary elections.”
"Iranian courts confirmed death sentences for bloggers Saeed Malekpour and Vahid Asghari, both of whom were not accorded due process and now face imminent execution on charges of 'spreading corruption.'"
Malekpour was imprisoned in October 2008 and confessed on Iranian TV that he developed and promoted porn websites.
The 35-year-old, who was living in Canada, claimed he was tortured into confessing to crimes against Islam. His family have said he was only a programmer whose photo uploading software was used by a porn website without his knowledge.
Asghari was sentenced to death for allegedly hosting a pornography network.
The French government today criticised Iran and called for “the revision of these unacceptable decisions.”
France also “condemned with the greatest firmness” the arrests of the journalists and accused the authorities of “jamming certain media, controlling and censoring the internet”.
The British government has also denounced the arrests.
The news comes as relations between Iran and Britain worsen, with Defence Secretary Philip Hammond warning Tehran that any move to close the Straits of Hormuz could lead to military action.
The move followed the imposition of fresh sanctions on Iranian banks by George Osborne, following the publication of the International Atomic Energy report that highlighted Iran’s continued ambition to create nuclear weaponry.