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The Moslehi Saga: 'Perverted Team,' Looming Lawsuits, Blocked Websites

21 Apr 2011 10:00Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Iranian press and excerpts where the source is in English. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

Iran Daylight Time (IRDT), GMT+4:30

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President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei -- the "perverted team," in hardline critics' new catchphrase (see below).

10 a.m., 1 Ordibehesht/April 21 Our columnist Muhammad Sahimi compiled the following news items and commentary:

The row over the forced resignation of Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi continued on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Tuesday evening, Tehran time, the website Dolat-e Yar, which reflects the views of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, posted a report claiming that Moslehi no longer held the ministerial post. It claimed that Ahmadinejad had a "good meeting" with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in which he explained his reasons for not wanting Moslehi to continue as intelligence minister and that Khamenei had accepted his explanation. By Wednesday morning, however, the report had been removed from the site.

On Wednesday, Khamenei's office made public the letter he wrote to Moslehi. Referring to the Intelligence Ministry staff as his "dear revolutionary children," Khamenei praised Moslehi and asked him "to double his efforts more than ever in carrying out the internal and external missions" of the ministry. That should have settled the matter, but the row continued.

A group of 180 Majles deputies signed a letter demanding Ahmadinejad explicitly declare his position regarding Khamenei's order for his reinstatement. Another letter, addressed to Moslehi, was signed by 216 deputies who praised his work and declared their support for him as intelligence minister.

Then an avalanche of criticism descended on Ahmadinejad for his handling of the Moslehi affair. Political pundit Mehdi Fazaaeli said that the president had not done what the supporters of the government expected of him. Fatemeh Rajabi -- publisher of hardline website Raja News, author of Ahmadinejad, the Miracle of the Third Millennium, and long known as an ardent supporter of the president -- claimed that his "popularity" continues only so long as he is absolutely obedient to Khamenei. Conservative Majles deputy Ahmad Tavakoli, an Ahmadinejad critic, accused the "perverted team that has been accused of corruption" of responsibility for the saga.

The "perverted team" has recently surfaced in the conservatives' parlance -- the phrase refers to Ahmadinejad's chief of staff and confidant Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei and his inner circle. Seyyed Abbas Nabavi, a mid-ranking cleric, said that keeping Moslehi was necessary to prevent the "perverted team" from creating chaos in the ministry. He accused Ahmadinejad of intentionally distancing himself from Khamenei, but also said the question of who is responsible for this should be studied. Mohammad Bani Habibi, secretary-general of the right-wing Islamic Coalition Party, warned Ahmadinejad to prevent "people around him" from intervening in his personnel decisions. He said that after Khamenei visited the ministry a while ago and praised Moslehi for his performance, Ahmadinejad could not have any justification for forcing Moslehi to resign. Ayatollah Abbas Vaez Tabasi, Khamenei's representative to the province of Khorasan Razavi, said that the legitimacy of any firing or hiring of senior officials emanates from Khamenei, not Ahmadinejad.

Ahmadinejad's supporters tried to strike back. In an article on Dolat-e Yar by an unknown author, the president's critics were threatened. One version of the article divided those critics into three groups: (1) those who expected him to grant them concessions, especially economic, and have been attacking him because he refused; (2) those who sense that Iran is going to experience very difficult economic conditions this year and are therefore trying to distance themselves from him; and (3) those who want to paralyze his administration. The article then threatened that since Ahmadinejad will not make concessions, we may soon see an "astounding confrontation in the nation, compared to which the sedition [Green Movement] will be child's play." At least three versions of the article appeared over a 24-hour period. In the first version posted on Tuesday evening, Tehran time, the article threatened that there would be bloodshed in the streets. The second version warned that Ahmadinejad "will destroy" his critics. The third version posed the rhetorical question, "Will Ahmadinejad destroy his critics? Only the future will answer the question, and people are waiting for the answer."

Fatemeh Bodaghi, vice president for legal affairs, opened another front in the power struggle between the two camps when she said that her office will sue certain media and political figures. She claimed that the administration is very patient and accepts appropriate criticism, but when some limits are passed, legal action is necessary. She said that the lawsuit will be filed because "we wish to have Islamic mass media."

The struggle between the two camps has also grown increasingly fierce in cyberspace. Three websites that support Ahmadinejad, Mahramaneh News, Bakeri News, and Rahva News, have been blocked in Iran. Mahramaneh News claimed that Khamenei had only suggested, rather than insisted, Ahmadinejad keep Moslehi. It also rebuked the president's critics, saying, "This year is the year of economic jihad [as declared by Khamenei], not the year of attacking Mashaei."

Even the reformists could not resist commenting on the episode. Mohammad Ali Abtahi, former vice president in the administration of Mohammad Khatami, wrote, "One of the main accusations against the reformists was always that they had set up a dual government. They [the hardliners] accused the reformists of sending signals to the world that the positions and views of the President [Khatami] and the Leader were not the same, and framed that as evidence of our enemies penetrating our system. The recent events -- in which the views of the Leader were divided into two types, orders and advices; the official declaration [by Ali Akbar Javanfekr, head of IRNA, the official news agency] that the president can ignore the Leader's views; the resignation of the minister of intelligence and its acceptance by the president; his reinstatement by the Leader and the president's resistance to it -- are all indicative of a dual government, particularly a government that has come to power through the effort of the Leader, for which the nation has paid a heavy price."

Twelve Iranian engineers working in Afghanistan who were kidnapped by the Taliban have been released. They were kidnapped 30 miles from the Iran-Afghanistan border while working on the construction of a road to the border funded by the Islamic Republic.

Mohamed Ahmed el-Tayeb, Imam of Cairo's al-Azhar Mosque and considered the highest authority in Sunni Islam, asked Iran not to interfere in the internal affairs of the Arab countries. Several Arab states have blamed Iran for involvement in regional political unrest, especially in Bahrain, where a Sunni monarchy dominates a Shia majority that is demanding political reforms.

Outspoken reformist Mostafa Tajzadeh, who has been imprisoned since immediately after the 2009 presidential election, is in poor health. He has spent at least 11 months in solitary confinement. He and six other senior reformists have filed a lawsuit against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, accusing it of intervening in the 2009 election. The judiciary has taken no action on the suit. Meanwhile, Ghasem Ravanbakhsh, a disciple of reactionary cleric Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, asserted that Tajzadeh has access to the Internet and a library in jail.

Film and television actor Ramin Parchami, 38, was sentenced to one year in jail. He was arrested during the February 14 demonstrations called by Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi. Another artist, musician Shouresh Saeed-Zadeh of the Kurdish town Marivan, was detained by the security forces for as yet unknown reasons.

Hassan Nahid, imprisoned for revealing classified information, passed away in jail. He had cancer. He was first arrested in 2004 and was sentenced to three years incarceration. After he served his full sentence, he was still detained because he could not afford to pay the fine that had also been imposed. Nahid is the second prisoner to die in jail over the past month. Mohsen Dokmehchi, who was denied the treatment he needed, died of cancer. Another political prisoner, Hossein Ronaghi Malaki, who has been sentenced to 15 years in jail and has been in poor health, was finally taken to a hospital, with his hands and feet bound.

Nationalist-religious journalist and political activist Hoda Saber was returned to prison. He was arrested in July 2010 and imprisoned ever since, without any judiciary official ever explaining the charge against him. He had been given a furlough of a few days. Over the past 30 years, Saber and two comrades, Taghi Rahmani and Reza Alijani, have been repeatedly arrested and imprisoned. Rahmani, who was arrested in early February and is still detained, has spent 17 years -- one-third of his life -- in the Islamic Republic's prisons. Hassan Zohouri, another journalist granted a furlough, was also returned to prison. He was arrested in February during a crackdown on journalists and sentenced to six months imprisonment.

Dr. Abdollah Ramazanzadeh, former governor-general of Kurdistan province and spokesman in the second Khatami administration, was found not guilty in a case brought against him by First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi. In a speech in 2008, Ramazanzadeh had said of the Ahmadinejad administration, "They want to run the country based on lies." This is the second time that Ramazanzadeh, who is currently in jail, has been exonerated in a case launched by Rahimi.

Ebrahim Raeisi, principal deputy to judiciary chief Sadegh Larijani, said that Majles Speaker Ali Larijani has filed a lawsuit against Ahmadinejad on behalf of the legislature. The lawsuit was filed after the president failed to implement legislation establishing a new Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs. Raeisi said that "violating and breaking laws is acceptable from no official, and the judiciary will pursue the case vigorously."

In a letter to Ali Larijani, Ingrid Srinath, secretary-general of the World Alliance for Citizens Participation, known as CIVICUS, wrote, "CIVICUS is pleased to hear that the Iranian Parliament has voted to suspend the review of the Establishment and Supervision of NGOs Bill for three months and referred it to the Social Commission of the Iranian Parliament for further deliberation. We welcome this action and implore members of Parliament and the government to use this interim period to reflect on provisions in the Bill that will guarantee the freedoms of expression, association and assembly as enshrined in the Iranian Constitution and in line with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Iran is a party.

"We remain concerned that despite strong reservations from Iranian civil society, sections (including Article 6 and parts of Article 12) of the proposed Bill which have already been implemented will not be subject to this review. Article 6 of the Bill, for instance, authorizes the creation of a Supreme Committee which will be composed of representatives from the security and other sectors including the judiciary, Ministry of Intelligence and the Basij resistance forces with powers to approve or reject the registration permits for NGOs. The Supreme Committee has also been empowered to have control over the choice, activities and decisions of the Board of Directors of NGOs and can decide to monitor the activities of NGOs and close their operations. We note with deep anxiety that the NGO community will have only one representative on the Supreme Committee."

The International Federation for Human Rights and the Society for the Defense of Human Rights issued a joint statement demanding the Iranian government end all discrimination and repression against the Arab Iranians in Khuzestan province. There have been demonstrations in Ahvaz, the provincial capital, against the government policy of moving Arab Iranians to other parts of the country, and replacing them with non-Arabs. The demonstrations began on the sixth anniversary of the first protests against the policy, after which a large number of protestors were executed. In the recent demonstrations, at least a dozen people have been killed and many have been injured or detained.

Former President Mohammad Khatami met with Ali Karroubi and expressed his regrets that his parents, Mehdi and Fatemeh Karroubi, have been put under house arrest. He expressed his hope that their house arrest and that of Mir Hossein Mousavi and his wife, Dr. Zahra Rahnavard, ends soon, and that if they are to be prosecuted, it will take place swiftly and justly.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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