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Mousavi, Karroubi Condemn State Killing Spree; More EU Rights Abuse Sanctions?

02 Feb 2011 15:36Comments

Press Roundup provides selected excerpts of news and opinion pieces from the Iranian and international media. Click on the link to the story to read it in full. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. The inclusion of various opinions in no way implies their endorsement by Tehran Bureau. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow other news items through our Twitter feed.

THE LEAD

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Iranian Opposition Leaders Speak Out against Surge in Executions

Radio Zamaneh | Feb 1

Iranian opposition leaders have condemned the growing number of executions in Iran, while expressing support for the populist movements that are shaking up countries in the Arab world.

Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi managed to organize a hasty meeting at Karroubi's home when the security forces who normally stand guard there were briefly relieved. It has been reported that Ayatollah Bayat Zanjani, a reformist member of Iran's Shia clergy, was also present.

The opposition leaders expressed grave alarm over the "rushed execution of death penalties in the country without adherence to appropriate and legal procedures." These policies are "used to create fear and anxiety in society," the opposition leaders said, but they actually reveal a severe lack of foresight on the part of the administration.

Karroubi and Mousavi insisted that every Iranian citizen has the right to due process, no matter what crime they are accused of.

"Close to 300 executions in the past year can also only lead to further isolation of Iran in the international community," the leaders said in a joint statement.

The two challengers to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's victory in the 2009 presidential elections questioned the validity of recent judicial actions: "Are executions without due process and without informing the families of prisoners humane or Islamic? Where does it say that we must refuse surrendering the remains of the prisoners to their kin?"

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The Case of Saeed Malekpour: "Canada, Raise Your Voice Louder..."

Persian2English | Feb 2

A day after the illegal execution of Iranian-Dutch citizen Zahra Bahrami on January 29, 2011 in Evin prison, the Tehran Prosecutor released a statement on government-controlled news sites about more imminent executions. [He] was quoted as saying that the death sentences issued to two admins of obscene websites were sent to the Supreme Court for "confirmation and approval".

Saeed Malekpour, a 35 year old Canadian Permanent Resident imprisoned in Iran is one of the victims mentioned in the statement by the Tehran Prosecutor. Unfortunately, with the case of Zahra Bahrami, since the Dutch government did not take quick steps in her defense, authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran were free of international pressure and had an easy time executing her without fear of any consequences on an international level.

Saeed Malekpour has been detained in Iran's notorious Evin prison for over two years. He has endured much physical and psychological torture by interrogators for the purpose of extracting false confessions from him regarding bogus internet-related charges. After spending 444 days in solitary confinement, Saeed Malekpour wrote a letter to Iran's head of Judiciary, asserting that all his confessions were extracted under immense pressure, torture, threats, and false promises of release, leniency, and bail. In his letter, he described the unfathomable torture he faced: lashings, threats of sexual assault, and interrogation sessions that resulted in broken teeth, a displaced jaw, bodily infections, and bouts of paralysis. When Saeed Malekpour's letter of torture was ignored by Iranian authorities, his wife who lives in Canada published the text online and it was distributed by international media outlets. This act enraged Iranian authorities and they retaliated by opening up a second case file against Saeed Malekpour, charging him with "Conspiring with his wife against national security".

Sadly, Saeed Malekpour has not been provided a fair opportunity to defend himself from the charges laid against him. It is becoming increasingly obvious that this chance will never come, as strong evidence suggests that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has predetermined his fate.

Canada Blasts Iran over Porn Death Sentence

AFP | Feb 1

Canada on Tuesday renewed its condemnation of Tehran over a death sentence handed down to an Iranian-born Canadian resident for operating a porn site.

"Canada remains deeply concerned by the continued flagrant disregard of the Iranian authorities for the rights of both Iranian and dual-national citizens," Melissa Lantsman, spokeswoman for Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon, told AFP.

"This appears to be another case in which someone in Iran is facing a death sentence after a highly questionable process."

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Another Political Prisoner Sentenced to Death Transferred to Unknown Location

HRANA (via Persian2English) | Feb 1

On January 30, 2011, HRANA reported that prison guards transferred death row Kurdish Iranian citizen Loqman Moradi from ward 4 in Rajai Shahr 'Gohardasht' prison to an undisclosed location.

This is not the first time a political prisoner has been transferred secretly before execution. In the past month, the same action was taken for Hossein Khezri and Ali Saremi before they were illegally executed, without any notification given to their lawyers or families. In fact, authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran have not even officially confirmed Hossein Khezri's.

On December 28, 2010, Iran Daily, quoting Judge Abolghasssem Salavati, the head of branch 15 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court reported that Zaniar Moradi and Loqman Moradi were sentenced to death by public hanging on the charges of "Moharebeh" [Enmity with God] and "Causing sedition and depravity on Earth".

On December 22, 2010, in a trial that lasted 20 minutes, Judge Salavati found these two Kurdish Iranian citizens guilty of being members of "Komeleh" (a Kurdish opposition party) and of participating in the July 5, 2010 assassination of Saadi, the son of Marivan's Friday Prayer Imam, and two other individuals named Hadi and Abdollah.

The sentences have yet to be announced to the defendants and lawyer. In a letter published by human rights groups, the two prisoners wrote that they were forced to confess to the [false] allegations after being threatened with rape by the use of a bottle.

Death Row Prisoner's Father: Confessions After 17 Months of Torture

ICHRI | Feb 1

[The] father of Loghman Moradi, [...] told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran about his son's charges that, "he was accused of murder, and this accusation is a lie."

"He went to Iraq two years ago to join the Komalah Organization, but when he returned to Sanandaj, he was arrested. The court sentenced him to one year in prison, but my son was released on bail four months later. I took him home from Prison myself. But they called him a month later [and told him] that he would be arrested again. My son told them that he had not done anything wrong and that he was not afraid. They called again the next day and said again that he was guilty and he was going to be arrested, and he said that he had not committed any crimes. But on the third day, when he left the house, they arrested him. We did not hear from him for the first nine months. Wherever we went to Mariwan and Sanandaj, looking for him, we were told 'your son is not here, we don't know [where he is].' Until he finally called home after he was transferred to prison and we found out where he was. Now it has been 18 months since he was arrested. At first he thought that he was re-arrested to finish his one-year prison term. He learned later what plans they have for him," he said.

Osman Moradi, father of the Kurdish prisoner who, along with Zanyar Moradi, have been convicted of armed activities and murder of the Mariwan Friday Imam's son on 5 July 2009, described his son's case for the Campaign. "During the first nine months when he was at the Intelligence Office Prison, there was no murder charge in his case. Later, during the next seven months when he was held in prison, there was no such talk, either. But they returned him to the Intelligence Ministry again, and held him there for 25 days. He was tortured and abused to the point where he accepted the murder [charge]. I mean he accepted it in order to save himself from those conditions. It took them 17 months to take that confession from him," Osman Moradi said.

Man Who Said He Was God Is Hanged

Reuters (via Independent) | Feb 1

A man who attracted several disciples after claiming to be God was hanged for apostasy. The Fars news agency said Abdolreza Gharabat, who was hanged last week, deceived people into worshipping him.

Apostasy, murder, adultery, rape, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Iran's sharia law, which has been practised since the Islamic revolution of 1979.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said last month that Iran executed an average of one person every eight hours.

European Parliament Calls for Sanctions against Iran's Human Rights Abuses

Oneindia News | Feb 2

The European Parliament on Tuesday called for new sanctions to combat Iran's human rights abuses following the execution of a woman.

On Jan 29, Iran executed Dutch-Iranian citizen Sarah Bahrami in Tehran. The execution was firmly condemned by Foreign Affairs Committee Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). MEPs voted in favor of a resolution on the future European Union relations with Iran. In the resolution, the parliament condemned the lack of consular access to Bahrami as well as the failure of Iranian authorities in ensuring a transparent and fair judicial process.

The resolution drafted by Bastiaan Belder also called on EU Foreign Affairs High Representative Catherine Ashton to raise the cases of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani and Zahra Bahrami with the Iranian authorities.

The resolution also urged EU foreign ministers to impose sanctions targeting Iranian officials responsible for serious human rights abuses since the 2009 elections in which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected as president.

The resolution, approved in committee with 62 votes in favor, 3 against and 2 abstentions, is to be put to a plenary vote at the March plenary session in Strasbourg.

See also: "Dutch Iranian Held in 2009 Protests Hanged; 'Iranians and the Cult of Death'" (Tehran Bureau Press Roundup)

THE EGYPTIAN UPRISING

Egypt Revolt Has Iran in a Spin

Guardian | Feb 1

Iranian officials and clerics are insisting Egypt's insurrection, and similar popular revolts across the Arab world, are inspired by Islamist political ideology and have their origin in the 1979 Iranian revolution that overthrew the late Shah. But opposition leaders and independent analysts take a very different view. They say the common rallying cause is democracy, not Islamism - and that the Tehran regime is increasingly fearful of an Egypt-style uprising there.

After days of nervous hesitation, the Islamic Republic appeared today to have decided what line to take. A statement signed by 214 MPs pledged strong "spiritual" support for Egyptians in opposing "the tyranny of their rulers". It also condemned "efforts by certain western countries [code for Britain and the US] as well as the Zionist regime [Israel] to exhaust the uprising and separate it from Islamic values".

Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who ordered a violent crackdown on Iran's pro-democracy protesters in 2009, claimed on his webpage to have predicted and personally encouraged Egypt's pro-democracy revolt. He offered no explanation for this apparent contradiction. President Hosni Mubarak's persecution of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's biggest Islamist party, and his collusion with the US and Israel, were his undoing, Khamenei suggested.

In a webpage entry entitled Supreme Leader's View Of Egypt, quoted by Shayan Ghajar on InsideIran.org, Khamenei said the Brotherhood's struggle "is just like the yell that the Iranian nation let out against America and against global arrogance and tyranny" in 1979.

Iran: U.S. on the Wrong Side of History in Middle East

insideIRAN | Feb 1

Iranian officials and the state-run media in the Islamic Republic have expressed their support for the "revolution" in Egypt and called on Muslims around the world, especially Arabs in the region, to rise up against their dictators.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Jan.31, that "A new Middle East is taking shape around the axis of Islam." He warned Arab governments not to count on US support: "Those regimes and monarchies in the region, the US does not like them as it finds them to be a liability." The highest ranking Iranian official asserted, "The US has plans for every country in the Middle East...those in charge now in the US make decisions as if they are drunk," warning leaders and citizens of Arab countries to be aware of American "plans."

Fars news, a pro-government site with close ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, went as far as to claim that eight million Egyptians took part in demonstrations Feb. 1, and reported that military helicopters were prepared to evacuate embattled President Hosni Mubarak. Fars's claims have not been verified by any independent news agency.

Raja, a hardliner site with ties to the office of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, reported that protestors began marching towards Mubarak's presidential palace and claimed that the Mubarak regime was going to fall any hour.

Bolton: If Mubarak Falls in Egypt, Israel Should Bomb Iran

Raw Story | Feb 1

Former US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said the ouster of embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak would speed the timetable for an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.

"Do you think that the Israelis are going to have to strike -- they are going to have to take action?" Fox News Republican opinion host Sean Hannity asked the former ambassador on his radio program Monday.

"As you pointed out, ElBaradei ran cover for the Iranians for all those years that he was with the IAEA. And, I just don't think the Israelis have much longer to wait...they're going to have to act in fairly short order."

"I think that's right," Bolton responded. "I don't think there's much time to act. And I think the fall of a Egyptian government committed to the peace agreement will almost certainly speed that timetable up."

Headlines in Tuesday's Tehran Dailies

Iranian Diplomacy | Feb 1

Hamshahri: "Israeli PM: We Are Worried about the Recurrence of Iran's Revolution in Egypt"

Jomhouri-ye Eslami: "As Residents of Other Cities Pour into Cairo: 'Doomsday' in Egypt Today; The Largest Demonstration to Finish Mubarak"

Kayhan: "Kayhan's Exclusive -- Obama's Secret Message to Mubarak: There's Nothing We Can Do"; "Bashar Assad: Iran's Islamic Revolution Origin of Current Uprisings in Arab Countries"

Resalat: "Today, As Egyptians Arrive in the Capital from Other Provinces: Million-Strong Demonstration of People in Cairo"

Shargh: "Countdown for Mubarak's Fall"

Tehran-e Emrooz: "The Day of Judgment in Cairo: One Million People Gather to Protest against Mubarak Today"

Vatan-e Emrooz: "Hugo Chavez: US' Role in the Egyptian Crisis 'Shameful'"

OPINION & ANALYSIS: UPRISINGS IN THE ARAB WORLD

Editorial Cartoon: The Iranian Pharoah

Nikahang Kowsar (Khodnevis) | Feb 1

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Iran Cracks Down While Egypt Cracks Up

Barbara Slavin (Foreign Policy) | Jan 31

While the world's attention has been riveted by Arab uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt this month, Iran's government has taken the opportunity to execute a record number of prisoners in an apparent bid to head off the return of the dramatic street protests that pushed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government to the brink in June 2009.

"This is a reaction to the developments in Egypt and Tunisia," says Hadi Ghaemi, director of International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. "The Iranian intelligence forces want to show their power by executing so many people including even someone of European nationality."

The crackdown could be in part an effort to pre-empt more demonstrations as Iran on Jan. 31 begins the commemoration of the 32nd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. The climax of the so-called "10 days of dawn" that began with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's return from exile in 1979 is Feb. 11, the day the shah's last government fell. Last year, Iran also made a point of executing several political prisoners before that date.

This January, Ghaemi said, the Iranian government executed 83 people, including on Jan. 29 the first dual national deliberately killed in years: an Iranian-Dutch woman, Zahra Bahrami.

Bahrami, 45, was arrested in December 2009 when Iran's opposition Green Movement took to the streets during the Shiite Muslim holiday of Ashura. She was later accused of trafficking cocaine, a charge that her family asserts was fabricated.

According to Ghaemi, Iran executed almost as many people in January 2011 as it did in all of 2005. Since Ahmadinejad replaced Mohammad Khatami in August 2005, the number of executions has risen steadily and now is the highest in the world per capita and second only to China in absolute terms. At least 250 people were executed last year, Ghaemi said, with perhaps another 100 put to death more quietly. In the eastern city of Mashhad near the Afghan border, he said, about 600 people are currently on death row.

Lessons from a Revolution (Iran's, That Is)

Marina Nemat (Globe and Mail) | Jan 31

[M]y friends and some family members [...], during the starting days of the demonstrations in Iran that led to the Islamic revolution of 1979, were entirely consumed by the need to get rid of the king, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, but had no real plan for building a better future. It is believed that 98 per cent of the people of Iran supported that revolution, and this is probably true, because I was there and I saw the energy of the people on the streets of Tehran; like the Egyptians, Iranians demanded freedom and democracy, and they were sure they would get it.

In the early days of the 1979 revolution that ousted the shah, all Iranians, including liberals, Marxists and Islamists, took to the streets and seemingly fought for the same ideals. It was only after the shah went into exile and Ayatollah Khomaini came into power that serious cracks began to appear in the movement. Soon, the Islamists won the race for power, and this led to a horrific dictatorship that has been ruling Iran with an iron fist for more than 30 years.

I commend the people of Egypt and Tunisia for their courage, and I wish them freedom and democracy. I encourage them to continue their movement, but I also urge them to be alert and to learn from history. In 1982, only three years after the success of the Islamic revolution in Iran, I was arrested at the age of 16 for speaking up against the new regime. I was tortured and raped, and many of my friends were executed, so I hope the people of Egypt and Tunisia forgive me for being cautious.

It's so easy to lose oneself in the excitement of a revolution and in hope of a better future. But let's not forget that freedom and democracy are complicated and difficult to achieve, and they need a lot more than the goodwill of the people.

Cairo 2011 is Not Tehran of 1979

Geneive Abdo (Foreign Policy) | Feb 1

From London to Washington, and as far as Tehran, the question is being asked: Will Egypt of 2011 become the Iran of 1979? Some leading figures in Tehran, as well as Iranian state-run media, are trying to cast Egypt as another country caught up, as is Lebanon, in the region's tilt toward the Islamist orbit. "I herewith proclaim to those (Western leaders) who still do not want to see the realities that the political axis of the new Middle East will soon be Islamic," Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, a hard-line cleric, said last week at Friday prayers. He also applauded what he called an end to "Western-backed dictators in the Arab world." Meanwhile, a few European leaders are already sounding the alarm that Egypt's venerable Muslim Brotherhood, which dates back to the 1920s, could fill the vacuum left by the collapse of the Mubarak regime. British Foreign Secretary William Hague told reporters it was not up to foreigners to run Egypt, but "certainly we would not want to see a government based on the Muslim Brotherhood."

And in Washington, some neoconservatives -- the very same circle that not long ago was calling for regime change in Iran based on their reading of the will of the people -- are now backpedaling and advising President Obama to tread lightly, so as not to create an opening in Egypt for an Islamist state to emerge from more than a week of mass popular protest. Some Israelis are also making the same recommendation out of fear that Egypt will go the way of Iran. "...Israelis, have been overtaken by fear: The fear of democracy. Not here, in neighboring countries," Sever Plocker, an Israeli commentator, wrote in the daily Yediot Ahronot. "It is as though we never prayed for our Arab neighbors to become liberal democracies."

The voices making comparisons with 1979 have failed to understand the seeds of the Islamic revolution, nor do they seem to recognize that today's Egyptian uprising is a non-ideological movement. As someone who conducted research on the Brotherhood in Egypt for many years, I predicted 10 years ago that the only alternative to Mubarak would be a more democratic state run by the Brotherhood; I have been surprised at just how minimal a role the Brotherhood has played so far -- not only in the street movement, but in the consciousness of the young people in Tahrir Square.

Some skeptics make the point that the Iranian revolution succeeded because of its diversity of secularists and nationalists, not just the clerical establishment. True enough, but the driving forces of the revolution were Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who was clearly the charismatic figure leading the way, and his cadre of clerics, some of whom are still the pillars of the regime today in Iran. There are no clerics or even leaders within the Brotherhood positioning themselves as stand-ins for Mubarak.

What Do Israel and Iran Have in Common?

Meir Javedanfar (Foreign Policy) | Jan 31

In the long run, assuming events in Egypt are not replicated in Iran, Mubarak's ouster could in fact benefit the Islamic Republic. Mohamed ElBaradei, the former International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief who has emerged as a key figurehead for the Egyptian opposition, would most probably allow Iran to open an embassy in Cairo. During his tenure as the head of the IAEA, he tried to maintain good relations with the West and Iran at the same time. It's likely that he would follow this strategy as president. Under his leadership, Egypt could become the second Turkey, meaning an emerging country that tries to reach out to the West and Islamic countries at the same time. But if the Muslim Brotherhood takes power, its vehement anti-Israel tirades and support for Hamas would be cheered in Tehran -- concerns Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed in a Jan. 31 news conference.

Although Mubarak's fall would be very bad news for Israel as a whole, some right-wing parties, such as Yisrael Beitenu and its head Avigdor Lieberman, would share the ayatollahs' joy, albeit for a different reason. For Lieberman, who famously stated in October 2008 that Mubarak could "go to hell," a less Israel-friendly Egypt or one that is altogether anti-Israel would greatly serve his party's ultranationalist platform, which thrives on the message that the entire Arab world is against Israel.

Politics makes strange bedfellows indeed.

A New Middle East Takes Shape

A. Mohammadi, Former Charge d'Affaires of the Iranian Embassy in Khartoum (Mehr) | Feb 1

[W]hen we Iranians rebelled against the shah 32 years ago, we didn't stand against him but against the United States, and therefore the people didn't accept minor changes such as replacing the shah with Shahpour Bakhtiar, but based on the guidance of the Islamic leader Imam Khomeini, we knew that the main causes of the problems were those overlords who guided a puppet like the shah and their policies. Therefore, we knew that even by ousting the shah, our problems would not end because the world powers in the West were waiting for the right moment to restore the situation in order to serve their interests in the best way. Because of this revolutionary and conscious insight, the nation is currently celebrating the thirty-second anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, despite the numerous plots of the United States in the form of the Tabas military attack, the Nojeh coup d'etat attempt, the political, economic, military, and informational support of Saddam Hussein during the 1980-1988 imposed war, the long and broad economic sanctions, and the comprehensive political pressure, and compared to other regional countries, the nation is experiencing significant success in various scientific, educational, economic, and developmental fields.

In fact, events in the Middle East are a series of massive developments which are rooted in its past and future. Although due to extensive joint efforts by these governments and their Western overlords, the aftershocks of the Islamic Revolution emerged after a great delay, undoubtedly the new changes are irreversible, and certainly the Middle East will experience a different kind of life in the future. These irreversible changes complicate the Middle East policies of the United States and some other Western governments, and in addition, due to the political, cultural, economic, and even military impact of any development in this region on the entire world, the United States and its allies should prepare themselves for difficult years that will surely see the fall of their empire in the near future.

Mr. Mubarak, Enough Is Enough

M. A. Saki (Tehran Times) | Feb 1

In the Arabic language, Mubarak means "happy" or "congratulations" but Mubarak has turned into an "un-Mubarak" personality in the eyes of Egyptians.

Maybe Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak believes in the illusion that if he stops ruling Egypt, tomorrow morning the sun will not rise or the country will be fatherless.

Officially, Mubarak is called president and not king, even though he has turned Egypt -- a land of ancient civilizations -- into his own personal fiefdom.

The word republicanism has found another meaning during his 30 years of uncontested rule.

Dominoes Falling in the Arab World

Hamid Golpira (Press TV) | Jan 31

The current confrontation in the Arab world is not between authoritarian regimes and the forces of democracy.

The powers that be who run the Western world have decided that it is no longer in their interests to support puppet rulers running authoritarian regimes in the Arab world.

So they are turning to Plan B, which may have been prepared decades ago and put on the shelf until needed.

In Plan B, the Western powers will allow the authoritarian regimes of the Arab world to collapse and attempt to replace them with fake democracies run by puppet rulers beholden to their masters in the West.

And thus the current confrontation in the Arab world is actually between the forces of true democracy, who want independent countries, and the forces of fake democracy, who are seeking to establish comprador regimes, which would be the same old neocolonialism with a new face.

Who Stands With Iran's Opposition?

John Vincour (New York Times) | Jan 31

Excruciating new problems never nullify the old ones. In the case of Iran's potential nuclear threat, Egypt's gathering implosion --joined by some new elements of concern -- is only more bad news for the West.

[There is now a] situation in Egypt where the West, including the Obama administration, looks both challenged in articulating its support for the protesters shaking an apparently futureless regime in Cairo and unwilling to openly assert that it wants a successor to Hosni Mubarak who would hold to his clear line against Iran becoming a nuclear power.

In Tehran, the mullahs have been comparing the wobbling Mubarak regime to the fall of the shah in 1979.

Indeed, a better comparison might be with the circumstances around the mullahs' stolen election in 2009. At the time -- and since -- President Barack Obama of the United States didn't (and hasn't) offered either verbal or practical backing to the Iranian opposition against a government whose history of oppression and contempt for the law is well documented, and well known.

OTHER NEWS

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Majles Impeaches Ahmadinejad's Transportation Minister

As reported by Tehran Bureau, Iran's parliament impeached Transportation Minister Hamid Behbahani on Tuesday, by a vote of 147 to 78, with nine abstentions. In the wake of the crash of IranAir 277 last month, in which 78 people lost their lives, Behbahani had come under heavy criticism both for the poor condition of Iran's passenger aircraft fleet and wide-ranging problems with road transportation. Later in the day, legislators spoke out against the absence of both Behbahani and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from the legislative proceedings, which they were legally required to attend. -- Dan Geist

Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani [...] criticised Ahmadinejad and his minister for refusing to attend today's session. "The presence of the Transport Minister was obligatory by law," he said. "His absence in today's session is a violation of the law," he added. [Green Voice of Freedom]

"That the president orders his minister not to attend the parliament session is the ugliest sign of disrespect to the house. Respect for parliament and preventing dictatorship require us to vote in favor of impeachment," said Ahmad Tavakoli, a prominent conservative member of the parliament. [Uskowi on Iran]

'Act as If Iran Could Have N-Weapon by Next Year'

Today | Feb 2

Western powers should work on the assumption that Iran could have a nuclear weapon by next year and "act in accordance" with that timetable, British Defence Secretary Liam Fox said on Monday.

Dr Fox was responding to a question in Parliament about the assessment of Mr Meir Dagan, the former Israeli intelligence chief, that Iran will be unable to develop a working nuclear weapon until 2015.

Dr Fox, a hawk who has repeatedly raised public concerns about Iran's nuclear programme, told MPs that he thought Mr Dagan's assessment could be too optimistic and the West should instead plan on the basis that Tehran is much closer to developing a working nuclear weapon.

"We know from previous experience, not least from what happened in North Korea, that the international community can be caught out, assuming that things are more rosy than they are," Dr Fox said.

"We should, therefore, be entirely clear that it is entirely possible that Iran may be on the 2012 end of that spectrum and act in accordance with that warning."

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Human Rights Activist Navid Khanjani Sentenced to 12 Years in Prison

CHRR (via Persian2English) | Feb 1

Navid Khanjani, a human rights activist and student of Baha'i faith banned from higher education was sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined by Judge Pirabbasi of branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court.

The four-page sentence handed down to his lawyer Shima Ghoosheh on January 30, 2011 is the longest prison term that a human rights activist has received. His trial took place on December 20, 2010.

Navid Khanjani was charged with "Acting against national security", "Propaganda against the regime", "Disturbing public order", "Libel", "Founding the Baha'i Education Rights Committee", and "Membership in [two human rights organizations], the Committee of Human Rights Reporters (CHRR) and Human Rights Activists (HRA)".

Navid Khanjani was arrested in Isfahan on March 11, 2010. After spending 65 days in ward 2A of Evin prison, and the first 25 days in solitary confinement, he was released on a $100 thousand USD bail. During his detention, in addition to being subjected to intense interrogations, he was forced to record [false] confessions against himself while under duress.

See also: "Twelve Years in Prison for Human Rights Activist and Banned Student" (ICHRI)

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Human Rights Activist, Kaveh Kermanshahi, Sentenced to Five Years

ICHRI | Jan 31

Iranian journalist and human rights activist Kaveh Ghasemi Kermanshahi was sentenced by Branch One of Kermanshah Revolutionary Courts, with Judge Moradi presiding, to five years in prison at Kermanshah's Dizelabad Prison, according to a report by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

During the previous two court sessions, Kermanshahi was tried on charges of "actions against national security through membership in the Kurdistan Human Rights Defense Organization," and "propagating against the regime through publication of news and reports, and interviews with the media," as well as "contacting families of political prisoners and those executed."

Kermanshahi's lawyer, Mostafa Ahmadian, was only verbally informed of the charges on Sunday, 30 January 2011, in lieu of being served with a written copy of the sentence. The Kurdish human rights activist received the maximum punishment for the charges, based on Articles 488 and 500 of the Islamic Penal Code. In an unprecedented action, in addition to confiscating Kermanshahi's passport, several documents, and personal papers, his sentence includes confiscation of all personal effects seized during his arrest, including his laptop computer, his computer hard disk, cell phone, camera, printer, and other items as "crime implements" by the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Kaveh Ghasemi's lawyer, Mostafa Ahmadian, confirmed that his client was sentenced to five years in prison. "This ruling was very unexpected for me; it is a very heavy sentence for my client. Every suspect should be protected by the principle of innocence, and so long as his charges have not been proven in methods expressed by the law and in a trial by a qualified court, his actions should be respected and protected. None of the actions taken by my client, who has had good intentions and has acted on humanitarian goals, were manifestations of actions against national security and propagation against the regime. What has been mentioned in his indictment as 'legal evidence,' has been at a level that would discredit the innocence principle in his case," he said.

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3-Year Prison Sentence Approved for Women's Activist Mahboubeh Karami

Green Voice of Freedom | Jan 31

Human rights activist Mahboubeh Karami has been sentenced to three years in prison.

According to the Change for Equality website, a three-year prison sentence was approved for Mahboubeh Karami following appeal. Karami's lawyer Mohammad Sharif was notified about the decision by Judge Movahed to reduce her initial four-year jail-term to three years.

The accusations against Karami included membership in the Human Rights Activists in Iran organisation, "propaganda against the establishment", "assembly and collusion with the intention to commit crimes against national security" as well as "spreading lies." She was acquitted of the charge of "spreading lies."

Karami is a women's rights activist and member of the One Million Signatures Campaign aimed at ending discriminatory laws against women in Iran.

Iran Calls Back Freed American Woman for Trial

Fars | Jan 31

Sarah Shourd, who was released on bail in September, was summoned back to Iran to attend court session, an Iranian judiciary spokesman said on Monday.

"Sarah Shourd...has been summoned by the Revolutionary Court to be present at next trial session," Iran's Prosecutor-General and Judiciary Spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeii announced, saying that the trial is set for February 6.

"The hearing will be held on scheduled date unless in some exceptional cases such as their lawyers' formal requests," Ejeii said.

In July 2009, Iran detained three American nationals after crossing Iran-Iraq borders illegally. They were later charged with espionage by Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi.

More News Websites Blocked in Iran

Reuters | Jan 31

Iranians have found their access to major news websites even more restricted than usual as more foreign sites were blocked by a government filter, Reuters witnesses observed on Monday.

Yahoo News and Reuters.com, both usually accessible in Iran, were unavailable, joining other long-blocked news sites such as the BBC and social networks Facebook and Twitter as beyond the reach of Iranians using a standard Internet connection.

There was no official confirmation of new Internet restrictions. One Iranian government official contacted by Reuters said authorities were "looking into the source of the problem" to remove it.

Google News was still accessible on Monday, but links from there to many foreign news websites were blocked and a list of government-approved sites offered instead. No reason was given for why certain sites are filtered.

Yahoo's home page could be accessed and softer news items, including a CNBC item on American football cheerleaders, were not blocked. Links to harder new stories and the home page of Yahoo News, however, failed to load.

US Charges Iranian with Illegal Metals Exports

AFP | Feb 1

US authorities said Tuesday an Iranian man has been charged with exporting specialized metals to his homeland for potential use in nuclear and ballistic missile programs, in violation of a US embargo.

Milad Jafari, 36, was indicted on 11 charges for "illegally exporting and attempting to export specialized metals from the United States through companies in Turkey to several entities in Iran, including some entities that have been sanctioned for involvement in ballistic missile activities," the Justice Department said.

A federal indictment, which also seeks forfeiture of $177,000 dollars connected to the crimes, was returned by a grand jury in July last year and unsealed Tuesday in Washington, the department said.

Jafari, 36, remains at large and is believed to be in Iran, the Justice Department said. The charges carry an aggregate prison sentence of 155 years.

U.S. Sanctions Iranian and Turkish Firms for Missile Aid

Reuters | Feb 1

The Treasury on Tuesday blacklisted six individuals and five business entities in Iran and Turkey for providing materials and support to Iran's ballistic missile development efforts.

The sanctions target a procurement network that has facilitated more than $7 million in transactions for Aerospace Industries Organization, which oversees all of Iran's missile industries, the Treasury said in a statement.

The actions ban U.S. entities from transactions with the blacklisted people or businesses and seek to freeze any assets they may have under U.S. jurisdiction.

The Treasury said the supply network targeted in Tuesday's announcement is run by Iranian national Milad Jafari, his father, Mohammad Javad Jafari, and his brother, Mani Jafari.

Iran Lifts Restrictions on Fuel Delivery to Afghanistan

Uskowi on Iran | Feb 2

Iran announced today that is lifting all restrictions on fuel trucks entering into Afghanistan. The partial blockade of trucks carrying fuel into Afghanistan started in mid-December and resulted in serious fuel shortage in the country. The Iranian action provoked angry demonstrations in front of the Iranian embassy in Kabul and its consulate general in Herat, and two weeks ago the Afghan Chamber of Commerce issues a resolution calling on Afghan businesses to stop purchasing Iranian goods and services. Last week Afghanistan started to import millions of tons of fuel from Pakistan to ease the fuel shortage and bring down the gasoline prices in the country.

The Iranian government had said its actions were designed to prevent the delivery of fuel to US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, although it never explained why the action came nearly ten years after the NATO troops entered the country. The government also did not specify why it now believed that the fuel was not going to be delivered to NATO forces.

OPINION & ANALYSIS

A Glimmer of Hope Over Iran?

Robert Dreyfuss (The Diplomat) | Feb 1

In the United States, various hawks, neoconservatives and Republican hardliners seized on the failure of Istanbul to achieve a breakthrough by calling for a suspension of the talks, for more sanctions and for overt military pressure on Iran. The Washington Post, in a peevish editorial, called on Obama to reconsider his policy of engagement with Iran and urged Obama to push for regime change in Iran. "By doing more to support the Iranian opposition, the United States could pressure the regime where it actually feels vulnerable."

But the Obama administration wasn't listening. Speaking to reporters after the end of the Istanbul round, a senior US official said: "I think it remains to be seen whether the Iranians are serious about engaging in practical steps to get from where we are, and I don't think we are going to figure that out in one or two meetings. I think there is still time to test that." Significantly, by noting that there's time to seek an agreement, the official was backing off from the panicky urgency that has so often motivated discourse in the United States. Indeed, there's a growing realization in Washington that Iran isn't on the verge of being able to build a nuclear weapon even if that is its intention. Despite the pressure from the hawks, the United States reaffirmed its commitment to Obama's engagement policy.

And Iran's take? Top officials from Ahmadinejad on down also reaffirmed their commitment to dialogue with the P5+1. "If the other party is determined and committed to law, justice and respect, there is hope that in the next sessions good results would be achieved," Ahmadinejad said, speaking to a crowd in Rasht, following the conclusion of the Istanbul talks. Jalili added: "A fuel deal could be one of the most important areas for cooperation." And Baqeri, his deputy, sounded similar notes of optimism in an interview with Iran's government-owned Press TV, which headlined its report: "Iran ready to talk fuel swap."

Domestic politics, both in Iran and in the United States, make it difficult for both Ahmadinejad and Obama to ink an agreement. But if the talks are to move forward in the coming rounds, it may be necessary for Obama to state explicitly, as [Senator John] Kerry [chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee] did, that Iran's rights under the NPT do include a right to spin centrifuges.

Iran's Gateway in Dubai Highlights Sanctions' Bite

Brian Murphy (AP via Daily Caller) | Feb 1

The appeals from cash-starved businesses in Iran come in nearly every day at the small shipping office in Dubai.

Can they get goods on good-faith credit? Can the company help as economic sanctions on Iran cut off access to international banking and commercial markets?

"It's almost always a negative answer from us," said Ali Davani, whose family operates traditional wood-hulled ships that have ferried car parts, construction material and just about everything else between Dubai and Iran since the mid-1990s. "We know they are suffering in Iran, but so are we."

Just a few years ago, the family's Sky Star Co. could barely keep up with demand from Iranian businesses making orders via Dubai, one of the main transit points for consumer products and other goods heading for Iran. Today, the company's cargo ships spend as much time in drydock for overdue repairs as making the 150-mile (240 kilometers) journey to Iran's chief Gulf port, Bandar Abbas.

The lean times at Sky Star are echoed by Iranian-linked businesses across Dubai. Their troubles offer a clearer look at how stronger economic sanctions are squeezing average commerce and Iran's merchant middle class, who face a dwindling supply of business partners abroad and have been effectively blackballed from getting loans and credit on international markets.

DOCUMENTS & DECLARATIONS

NavanethemPillay1.jpg

Iran: UN Human Rights Chief Concerned about Recent Spate of Executions

News Release from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Right (OHCHR) | Feb 2

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Wednesday expressed alarm at the dramatic increase in executions in Iran since the beginning of this year.

According to Iranian press reports, at least 66 people were executed in the month of January, with some sources indicating an even higher figure. The majority of executions were reportedly carried out in relation to drug offences, but at least three political prisoners were among those hanged.

"We have urged Iran, time and again, to halt executions," Pillay said. "I am very dismayed that instead of heeding our calls, the Iranian authorities appear to have stepped up the use of the death penalty."

Ms. Pillay expressed particular concern over the three known cases in which political activists were executed. Jafar Kazemi, Mohammad Ali Haj Aqaei and another man whose name was not disclosed, were affiliated with banned political parties. Kazemi and Aqaei were arrested in September 2009 during protests. All three individuals were convicted of mohareb or "enmity against God," and hanged last month.

"Dissent is not a crime," she stressed. "Iran is party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees the right to free expression and to free association. It is absolutely unacceptable for individuals to be imprisoned for association with opposition groups, let alone be executed for their political views or affiliations."

The High Commissioner also condemned the two instances in which public executions were held, despite a circular issued in January 2008 by the head of the judiciary that banned public executions. She reiterated the Secretary-General's view that "executions in public add to the already cruel, inhuman and degrading nature of the death penalty and can only have a dehumanizing effect on the victim and a brutalizing effect on those who witness the execution."

"I am also deeply concerned that a large number of people reportedly remain on death row, including more political prisoners, drug offenders and even juvenile offenders," Pillay added.

"As Iran is no doubt aware, the international community as a whole is moving towards abolition of the death penalty in law or in practice. I call upon Iran to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty."

"At a minimum, I call upon them to respect international standards guaranteeing due process and the protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty, to progressively restrict its use and reduce the number of offences for which it may be imposed."

The Human Rights Committee, which monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), has consistently held that imposition of the death penalty amounts to arbitrary deprivation of life in breach of the Covenant, unless certain stringent criteria are met. These include that it can only be imposed for the most serious crimes, it shall not be mandatory, and it may only be imposed after a trial and appeal proceedings that scrupulously respect all the principles of due process. The Committee encourages abolition of capital punishment.

Exhibition of Contemporary Persian Paintings to Benefit Encyclopaedia Iranica

News Release from the Center for Iranian Studies (OHCHR) | Jan 26

Painting is probably the most vibrant form of art in contemporary Iran, with an ever-increasing number of talented artists making their mark by exhibiting works of startling originality and vigor. The impact of this outburst of creative talent can be seen in many galleries worldwide and in exhibitions in Tehran, Dubai, Paris, London and other locations. We are delighted to announce an exhibition of thirty-eight contemporary Persian paintings in Los Angeles, beginning on Saturday, February 5, 2011. Please click here for the details.

What sets this particular exhibition apart is not only the sheer range and vitality of the works displayed, but also the altruistic dedication and cultural and social responsibility manifested by all the artists in this exhibition. All the proceedings from the sale of the paintings will be donated to the Encyclopaedia Iranica Foundation, a not-for-profit institution established to support the Encyclopaedia Iranica.

The Encyclopaedia Iranica is an unprecedented, monumental undertaking, which aims at giving an accurate and well-documented account of Persian culture and history, prepared by the most eminent scholars of Iranian studies from all parts of the globe, and is generally acknowledged as one of the most important research projects of the 21st century.

The Encyclopaedia Iranica Foundation would also like to take this opportunity to record its deep gratitude to the Iranian artists who have donated their work to the encyclopedia, as well as the friends of Encyclopaedia Iranica who have helped in assembling these wonderful works of art in Paris and arranging their transport to California. We hope that the supporters of Persian art and the Encyclopaedia Iranica would not hesitate to take advantage of the present offer and would try to secure some of these paintings to decorate their homes or offices.

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