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10 May 2010 21:31No Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Iranian press, and excerpts where the source is in English. The link to the news organization or blog is provided at the top of each item. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the story in perspective. You can follow our news feeds on Twitter.

national

5 hanged in secret, 27 others face execution

IHR | May 9, 2010

The sudden execution of five Iranian political prisoners on Sunday appears to signal a government policy of relying on politically-motivated executions to strengthen its position vis-à-vis its opposition through terror and intimidation, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said.

The Campaign condemned the execution of five political prisoners, including Farzad Kamangar, a 34-year-old teacher and social worker, who was charged with Moharebeh (taking up arms against God), convicted and sentenced to death in February 2008, after a seven-minute trial in which "zero evidence" was presented, according to the human rights group. Four others also executed included Shirin Alam Holi, Ali Heidarian, Farhad Vakili and Mehdi Eslamian.

"Kamangar was arbitrarily arrested and set up to be killed in a staged trial, with no opportunity to present a defense," said Aaron Rhodes, a spokesman for the Campaign.

"These secret executions are, in reality, nothing more than state-sanctioned murders, and provide more evidence of the Islamic Republic's brazen contempt for international human rights standards," he said.

Kamangar's lawyer, Khalil Bahramian, told the Campaign that he was in shock because judicial authorities had reassured him and Kamanger that the charges against his client have been found to be baseless and he was no longer in danger of execution. Expressing his bewilderment at the contradiction between the authorities' assurances that Kamangar was found innocent and his sudden execution, Bahramian said "I don't know what forces are behind these executions that can demonstrate complete disregard for the Judiciary's own rules and regulations."

"I keep thinking this is a bad nightmare and I am going to wake up from it and Farzad is alive. It just doesn't make sense," he said. Kamangar's family have also told the media that they had received similar assurances and no one had informed them of the execution, either before or after it had taken place.

Iran hangs five members of Kurdish 'terrorist' group

Reuters | May 9, 2010

Iran hanged five members of a Kurdish "anti-revolutionary" group for various charges, including "moharebe" or waging war against God, the official IRNA news agency reported Sunday.

Farzad Kamangar, Ali Haydarian, Farhad Vakili, Shirin Alam- Houli and Mehdi Eslamian were members of the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which took up arms in 1984 for an ethnic homeland in southeast Turkey and northwest Iran.

"The five, including one woman, were hanged inside Tehran's Evin prison Sunday morning ... They confessed carrying out deadly terrorist operations in the country in the past years," IRNA said.

Iran sees PJAK, which seeks autonomy for Kurdish areas in Iran and shelters in Iraq's northeastern border provinces, as a terrorist group.

In recent years, Iranian forces have often clashed with PJAK guerrillas, who operate out of bases in northern Iraq. Kurds are large minorities in Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria.

The five Kurdish activists were convicted in 2008. They were hanged after a Supreme Court upheld their death sentences.

Iran Executes Five Activists, Sending Message to Critics

NYT | May 10, 2010

The Iranian government hanged five Kurdish activists, including a woman, on Sunday morning in the Evin prison in Tehran in what appeared to be an effort to intimidate protesters from marking the anniversary of last year's huge anti-government rallies after the June 12 election.

Sunday's executions brought the total for the weekend to 11. Six men convicted of drug smuggling were hanged on Saturday. For the past few years, Iran has had the highest number of government executions after China, according to Amnesty International.

Although the authorities announced that the five people executed Sunday had been found guilty of carrying out fatal bomb attacks, the executions were widely seen as intended to discourage people from rallying against the government on June 12. That will be the first anniversary of the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which many people believe was rigged.

Harsh Sentence in Absentia for Newsweek Reporter

NYT | May 10, 2010

A correspondent for Newsweek jailed in Iran for nearly four months last year before leaving the country has been sentenced in absentia by an Iranian court to an extended flogging and more than 13 years in prison for counter-revolutionary acts, the government there announced Monday.

The severity of the sentence, announced a day after five Iranian Kurdish activists were abruptly hanged in a Tehran prison, appeared to be a new signal of repression ahead of the anniversary of the disputed presidential election last June 12, which galvanized Iran's opposition movement into the biggest political threat to the Islamic theocracy since the 1979 revolution.

The Newsweek reporter, Maziar Bahari, 42, an Iranian-Canadian journalist and documentary filmmaker, was arrested in the days after the election, when massive demonstrations erupted in Iran over charges that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had stolen the vote. Mr. Bahari was jailed for 118 days and released on a $300,000 bail. He flew to London after his release to join his newborn daughter and wife.

The court sentenced him to a total of 13 years and 6 months in prison and 74 lashes on charges of conspiring against national security, possession of classified documents, propagating against the regime, insulting the supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, as well as Mr. Ahmadinejad. He has the right to appeal within 10 days.

In another official Iranian measure apparently aimed at exerting more control over the capital, the government said it was shutting down schools and universities next Saturday and Sunday which would bring a long weekend in Tehran that begins on Thursday to five days. The move effectively denies student activists a venue for any protests.

Official: 'I Consider Mousavi An Enemy Of God'

Radio Liberty | May 10, 2010

Gholamhossein Elham, a member of Iran's powerful Guardian Council, has reportedly said that opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi is a "mohareb," which means "an enemy of God" or someone who takes up arms against the Iranian establishment.

The charge carries the death sentence in the Islamic Republic.

Elham was quoted by Iran's hard-line Fars news agency as saying during a speech at a university that although he confirmed Mousavi's candidacy to run during last year's presidential election, he now believes the former prime minister is an enemy of the Iranian system.

Elham added that he feels sorry for those who still support Mousavi, because "he's led to the disruption of order in the country, street terror, and similar issues."

The Iranian official added that his view is a legal viewpoint and does not carry any executive weight.

Youths arrested in Iran for 'lustful' behavior at illegal concert

Guardian | May 7, 2010

Iranian police detained 80 young men and women for "lustful pleasure-seeking" activities at an illegal concert, Tehran's chief prosecutor has been quoted.

The socially conservative Islamic republic launched a crackdown two years ago on "indecent western-inspired movements", such as rappers and Satanists, as part of a widening clampdown on conduct the authorities deem immoral.

The public prosecutor, Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, said moral security police received a tip-off that a group of people were secretly selling tickets to a live music performance. "Police entered the venue where this illegal concert was being held ... 80 boys and girls in inappropriate outfits and under abnormal conditions were arrested," he told the Iranian Students' News Agency.

He said their cases were sent to a Tehran court where the youths were charged with taking part in "lustful pleasure-seeking" activities. Alcohol had been seized, he said.

60 Tehran University professors demand release of Maryam Abbasinejad

GVF | May 10, 2010

Sixty professors from the Tehran University of Medical Sciences have called for the release of medical student Maryam Abbasinejad from prison.

According to the official website of the reformist faction of the Iranian parliament, professors at the university have written a letter to the president of Tehran University of Medical Sciences urging him to take necessary steps in order to secure the immediate release of student Maryam Abbasinejad.

The Parliament News website published the letter on Monday 20 May, signed by sixty professor at the university. The faculty members stressed that the activities of imprisoned student Maryam Abbasinejad had been in complete accordance with the law.

Maryam Abbasinejad is a student of medicine as well as the chairman of the Islamic Association of Tehran University students. She was arrested last Sunday around 10pm, a day after Ahmadinejad's sudden appearance at the university on the occasion of International Labour Day.

Leader urges protection of culture

Press TV | May 10, 2010

The Leader of the Islamic Revolution has called on authorities to prevent the publication of books which contradict Iran's religious and cultural values.

"The country's cultural atmosphere, especially in the field of book publishing, should be protected as there are some who seek to distort history and spread issues which are against our values," Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said on Monday.

The Leader made the remark in a meeting with officials from the Islamic Ideology Dissemination Organization (IIDO).

"Serious work needs to be done on depicting the true picture of the Islamic Revolution," Ayatollah Khamenei said.

Students at Beheshti University protesting Ahmadinejad's unannounced visit | May 10, 2010

international

Larijani: US terror support evident

Press TV | May 10, 2010

Iran's Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani says the country is ready to provide substantial evidence of direct US backing and involvement in Pakistani terrorism.

Iranian investigations following the capture of Abdolmalek Rigi, the rindleader of the Jundallah terrorist grouping, have uncovered evidence of direct US support for terrorism in the region. Iran is prepared to share its findings with Pakistan if necessary.

The top parliamentarian made the remarks during a meeting with his Pakistani counterpart in Istanbul on the sidelines of the Organization of the Islamic Conference meeting there.

Iran to let families visit U.S. detainees: TV

Reuters | May 10, 2010

Families of three American hikers detained in Iran since July will be allowed to visit them, Iran's state television reported on Monday.

Iranian Intelligence Minister Haidar Moslehi said last month Tehran had proof that the three Americans, detained on espionage charges, had links to intelligence services.

Shane Bauer, 27, Sarah Shourd, 31, and Josh Fattal, 27, were detained after they entered Iran from northern Iraq, in a case that further complicated poor relations between Tehran and Washington.

Iran's English-language Press TV said their families would be permitted to visit them. It gave no source and said no date for the visit had been set.

The families said they had not received official confirmation of the news.

"But we would obviously be delighted if it is true and are ready to travel as soon as our visas are issued. We are extremely concerned for the physical and emotional welfare of Shane, Sarah and Josh and cannot wait to see them after nine long months," they said in a statement.

In Washington, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said: "We have been seeking and supporting for some time efforts by the families of the three hikers to visit their loved ones in Tehran. We have communicated that to Iran."

U.S.-Iran Feud Hits L.A.

WSJ | May 10, 2010

Amid the ongoing war of words between the U.S. and Iran, one of the more unusual broadsides from Tehran is that a terrorist organization bent on overthrowing its government has for years used America's second-largest city as a safe haven.

Iran alleges that the group, Tondar, has raised funds and organized attacks freely from Los Angeles, including a 2008 bombing that killed 14 people. In their limited indirect contact with U.S. diplomats and other Americans, Iranian officials have repeatedly raised concerns about the group.

The two men who run the group's Los Angeles-based media operations say Tondar isn't a terrorist organization, and the U.S. State Department doesn't classify the group as terrorist. The two men acknowledge that Tondar has fighters who want to replace Iran's Islamic regime with a secular monarchy. On its Facebook page, Tondar--which in Farsi means "thunder"--calls for "the overthrow of the Islamic regime...by ALL MEAN[s]!!!!"

But the Los Angeles members, says spokesman Iman Afar, have nothing to do with attacks in Iran. "We are not soldiers," Mr. Afar said. In the group's Los Angeles-based radio and television broadcasts, he added, "we simply reflect what is going on in [Iran] and what Tondar is doing."

Where Iraq Meets Iran, Guards See Shifting Lines

NYT

In a barren stretch of desert in southeast Iraq, an American soldier recently waved to his Iranian counterpart pulling guard duty at a fort on the opposite side of the border.

The Iranian appeared confused, but waved back before abruptly turning away. On another day, the American may have gotten a raised middle finger -- or no response at all.

The American soldiers who help Iraqi border guards patrol the Iranian frontier in this hot, dusty no man's land find themselves in a peculiar role.

They are stationed just a few hundred yards from an ostensible enemy toward whom they feel little animosity, in a place where the border itself is unclear, while undertaking what has turned out to be among the war's most challenging assignments: training the Iraqi police to patrol their own porous frontiers before the American military withdrawal next year.

Because Iranians and Americans lack diplomatic ties, some of their closest actual encounters take place here along the Iraqi border, including the polluted 30-yard-wide canal at Shulha al-Alghwat -- said to be mined during the Iran-Iraq war, and which only packs of wild dogs dare cross.

"If there's a show of force, they would reciprocate," said Master Sgt. James H. Allen, a member of the American border enforcement team. "If we brought a tank up to the border, they would bring a tank up to the border. But when we came here, we waved to them and we didn't point our weapons."

While there appears to be little tension, the Iranians do occasionally engage in cold-war-style gamesmanship, American and Iraqi soldiers said.

At the Shalamcheh port of entry, a few miles from the fort, Iranian workers recently erected a giant pole topped with a large Iranian flag that now towers over a much smaller Iraqi flag on the other side.

economy

Iran gives two week ultimatum to Shell, Repsol

AFP | May 10, 2010

Iran has given a two week ultimatum to energy giants Shell and Repsol to decide on their investments in key gas projects or else they would be replaced by local firms, a top official said on Monday.

The deadline comes just two days after Iranian Oil Minister Masoud Mirkazemi threatened to kick out foreign firms for delaying the development of its massive South Pars gas fields and replace them with domestic ones.

Royal-Dutch Shell and Spain's Repsol have locked in negotiations with Iran since around 2002 to develop phases 13 and 14 of South Pars but they have delayed a decision on their investments amid growing Western pressure of new sanctions against Tehran.

"The oil ministry has issued an ultimatum to Shell and Repsol and they are expected to make a decision about phases 13 and 14 of South Pars in two weeks time," Reza Kasaizadeh, chief of National Iranian Gas Export Company told Mehr news agency.

"If they don't act promptly, we will hand over these two phases to capable Iranian firms."

Kasaizadeh said the two companies had been involved in developing the liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects for a "long time", but they have "not reached the FID (final investment decision) stage yet after all this time."

Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards Corps meanwhile have boasted they can take over the energy sector projects if Western firms pull out.

Iran warns it will expel foreign firms over gas delay

AFP | May 8, 2010

Oil Minister Masoud Mirkazemi threatened on Saturday that Iran would kick out foreign firms for delaying the development of its massive South Pars gas field and replace them with domestic companies.

Mirkazemi did not name any foreign company, but his threat comes just days after Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards Corps boasted that it could take over projects from Western firms such as Total and Shell in South Pars.

"We have recently told some foreign firms which have delayed (development of) some phases (in South Pars) for several years, that we would not negotiate with them and domestic firms will be given these projects to implement," Mirkazemi was quoted as saying by Mehr news agency.

Several foreign companies have stopped making new investments in Iran's energy sector amid Western pressure for new sanctions against Tehran because it continues to pursue its controversial nuclear program.

Iran launches first homemade car

India Server | May 10, 2010

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that Iran will launch more than 150,000 'homemade' cars every year and provide employment to more than 23,000 people as part of its plan to achieve technical independence.

"The Iranian nation has showed the world that it has absolutely no need for foreign assistance, be it financial or political, and that it is well able to stand on its own feet and flourish regardless of economic sanctions and political pressure," Ahmadinejad said to a leading national Daily.

The automobiles will be manufactured by Saipa Car Manufacturing Company. It is one of the largest of its kind in the Middle East in terms of area. The plant was inaugurated by the president on Sunday in Kashan city. It has been built at a cost of 4,000 billion rials ($400 million).

Ahmadinejad also unveiled the production line of Tiba, the first Iranian car entirely made and assembled in the country.

Week in Green

Episode 22: Interview with Dr. Cornel West

Week in Green | May 7, 2010

In the 22nd episode of The Week in Green, Princeton professor and longtime civil rights advocate Cornel West compares the American Civil Rights Movement to the Green Movement, as well as the strategies he thinks its supporters should adopt in the year ahead.

announcement

The Middle East Center at the University of Pennsylvania is proud to announce open competition for the 2010-11 Artist in Residence Program. The program is made possible by a grant from the Social Science Research Council under the title "New Voices, New Media: Artists and Academics on Islam". The program seeks to pair professional artists in all media with one or two faculty partners for the course of three months. The chosen artists will work closely with UPenn faculty to deepen their knowledge of a particular area of scholarship on the Middle East with the goal of producing a new work of art that is inspired by the partnership. Partners will also be expected to produce a new scholarly work likewise inspired by the experience of the program. Artists will be expected to meet frequently with mentors, lead colloquiums on their progress and participate in outreach efforts associated with the program. For more information please click here.

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