Iran confirmed for the first time Tuesday that a well-known Iranian-Canadian blogger had been arrested last month and was facing charges of "insulting religious figures."

The confirmation that Hossein Derakhshan, 33, was in custody came from Iran's revolutionary court spokesman, Ali Reza Jamshidi, at a news conference in Tehran.

International human rights groups and media reports said Derakhshan, a former Toronto resident, was arrested on Nov. 1.

"His case is in a preliminary investigative stage at a revolutionary court and he is currently in incarceration at a jail in Tehran," Jamishid said, giving no further explanation of the charges against Derakhshan.

In Iran, revolutionary courts handle national security matters.

Known as "the blogfather" for his pioneering efforts at helping Iranian bloggers post weblogs in the Persian language, Derakhshan was both an outspoken critic of the clerical regime in Tehran, and supportive of his homeland's controversial nuclear program.

In his blog Editor: Myself, he wrote that Iran had the right to defend itself from what he called "U.S. aggression."

Trips to Israel courted controversy

In 2006 and 2007, he made two high-profile trips to Israel, a country that Iran doesn't recognize and forbids it citizens from visiting.

He wrote in his blog that he was travelling on his Canadian passport, and wanted to show citizens of both Iran and Israel that each of their governments were wrong to demonize the other's society.

During both visits, he appeared often on Israeli media and spoke in public venues.  

Derakhshan moved to Canada in 2000 after the reformist newspaper that he'd worked for in Tehran was closed by the authorities.

In the months before his arrest, he was enrolled in a master's program at the School of Oriental and African Studies in Britain.

He was viewed as a controversial figure in the Iranian diaspora because of his support for some aspects of Iran's foreign and security policies. He also clashed publicly with an Iranian-American analyst based in Washington, Mehdi Khaliji, who filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the young blogger, alleging defamation of character.

with files from the Associated Press