But the fact that the police have not done so during seven months of protests prompted doubts that he was telling the truth. To many, Moqaddam’s threats were another chapter in the ongoing effort to frighten Iranians dissidents enough to keep them off the streets.
Moqaddam said spreading word of planned protests was a crime that will carry a “heavy penalty.” He didn’t say what penalty..
He said that anyone using email or text messages—called SMS, for Short Message Service, in Iran—should be aware that their messages were being monitored by the authorities. He said his men had the capability to trace both the sender and the recipient. And he warned that the use of anonymous proxy servers would not hide anyone’s identities. “These are completely under our control,” he asserted.
He said the police have had this capability for some time but have not used it so far.. “We had a policy of tolerance previous to this, so we tolerated them,” Moqaddam said, ignoring the fact that he had announced a zero-tolerance policy before the Ashura protests last month.
“Those involved in organizing or issuing appeals for protests have committed a worse crime than those who take to the streets,” he said.
Moqaddam also expressed concern that some organizers might not show up on the streets for actual protests and thus could not be caught in the police sweeps that take place at demonstrations.
Email, text messages and social networks like Facebook have become the main means of communication among large blocks of protesters.