Teheran frees Iranian-Canadian 'blogfather' jailed for travelling to Israel

TEHERAN (AFP) - Iran has freed an Iranian-Canadian journalist dubbed "the blogfather" who was jailed for 19 years for travelling to Israel, local media reported Thursday.

Hossein Derakhshan was arrested in November 2008 after visiting Israel - Iran's arch-foe - with his Canadian passport on what he called a mission to breed understanding between Iranians and Israelis.

At his trial in 2010, he was convicted of collaborating "with enemy states".

The court also found him guilty of "propaganda against the Islamic system" and of "promoting counter-revolutionary cells and insulting Islamic sanctities".

Derakhshan's conviction prompted an international outcry, with media watchdog Reporters Without Borders calling charges against him "completely made up" and accusing Iran of seeking to make "an example" of the blogger.

According to Mehr news agency, Derakhshan posted a message on social media saying he had returned to Evin prison, north of Teheran, on Tuesday after a fortnight's release on bail.

He was held in solidary confinement for 24 hours before being informed he had been pardoned in a decree issued by Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Mehr said.

Dubbed the Iranian "blogfather", Derakhshan, now 39 after having spent six years behind bars, posted precise instructions back in 2001 on how to set up Persian-language blogs.

His release comes as Iran is locked in showdown talks with world powers about its nuclear programme ahead of a Nov 24 deadline for a deal.

Several civil society and opposition figures jailed after protests against the re-election in 2009 of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have been released in recent months as a goodwill gesture by his moderate successor Hassan Rouhani.

Prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh was released in September 2013 shortly before the then newly-elected Rouhani attended the UN General Assembly in New York.