Iranian prisoner flees short-term release for Canada: family

Tehran (AFP) –


An Iranian serving a life sentence on a conviction of designing a pornographic website has fled the country while on short-term release from prison and has arrived in Canada, Iranian authorities and his family said.

Iranian authorities on Saturday confirmed state television reports that Saeed Malekpour, who is also a permanent resident of Canada, had left the Islamic Republic.

"This individual was barred from leaving the country and has apparently left... via unofficial channels and has not returned," said judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili.

"This individual was sentenced to life in jail and had served more than 11 years of his sentence," Esmaili said, quoted by the judiciary's official news agency, Mizan Online.

He said Malekpour was given a three-day furlough on July 20 and by the end of it did not turn himself in to the prison.

His sister posted a video on Twitter confirming he had returned to Canada.

"The nightmare is finally over," Maryam Malekpour said, thanking all those who supported the family.

Payam Akhavan, a professor at McGill University in Montreal who supported Malekpour, told CBC TV that his family in Iran and his lawyer knew nothing about the escape.

Malekpour was arrested in December 2008 in Iran when he returned to his native land to visit his dying father. He was accused of operating a pornographic website.

He was initially sentenced to death, but that was commuted to life in prison in August 2013.

According to reports at the time, he had been found guilty on three counts, including "designing and moderating adult content websites" and "insulting the sanctity of Islam".