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Ahmadinejad: 'There Are No Political Prisoners in Iran'

24 Oct 2011 09:30Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Farsi and Arabic 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 Standard Time (IRST), GMT+3:30

AhmjadIRNAOctHome.jpg9:30 a.m., 2 Aban/October 24 Our columnist Muhammad Sahimi compiled the following news items and commentary:
Ahmadinejad's CNN interview

In an interview with CNN, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attacked NATO's role in Libya and said the United States and all other countries should stay out of the conflict in Syria. He indicated that his views on Libya had not changed due to the death of Muammar Qaddafi, and that in his opinion NATO's military campaign exacerbated the conflict and undermined the sovereignty of the nation.

Concerning Syria, Ahmadinejad said, "Nobody should send arms.... We are going to make greater efforts to encourage both the government of Syria and the other side and all parties to reach an understanding. There should be no interference from outside. The United States should realize that the era of colonialism is over."

Responding to U.S. allegations that the Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force organized a plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia's ambassador in Washington, Ahmadinejad said, "Do we really need to kill the ambassador of a brotherly country? What are the reasons and purpose behind that? We are a civilized nation."

Regarding the presence of U.S. forces in the Middle East, Ahmadinejad asked, "What are the American bases doing in our region? Even in the current year, they signed military contracts with the countries of the region totaling $90 billion. If the United States does not provoke tension in our region, and if they do not make artificial threats, they would not be able to sell their arms. What are the arms being used for -- are they used for friendship? They are spending so much money for the military bases, when they could spend this money for the American unemployed. They have a budget of more than $1 trillion for the military. If they spent it on the American economy, would it be necessary for the people to [occupy] Wall Street?"

When asked whether Iran will train the Iraqi military after virtually all U.S. troops are withdrawn in December, he said, "Iraq is a sovereign nation and its officials will decide how its armed forces should receive military training."

Regarding the recent allegations by the International Atomic Energy Agency about the nature of Iran's nuclear program, Ahmadinejad said, "The IAEA demands Iran prove that its nuclear program is not for military purposes. This is like asking someone to prove that he is not ill.... Those who want to have nuclear weapons are politically retarded, because the era of the atomic bomb has ended."

The president claimed, "There are no political prisoners in Iran," and he rejected the accusations that his administration was involved in the recent embezzlement of nearly $3 billion that involved several of the nation's largest financial institutions. He insisted, "No one in my cabinet had anything to do with any violation of the laws."

Human rights

A group of political prisoners' families met with Grand Ayatollah Asadollah Bayat Zanjani, the popular cleric and supporter of the Green Movement. The ayatollah emphasized that exerting pressure on the families by contacting them repeatedly is completely against Islam.

Ali Tari, former Revolutionary Guard officer and head of Mir Hossein Mousavi's presidential campaign in Mazandaran province, was imprisoned to serve his six-month sentence. He has been transferred to a ward in which murderers and other dangerous criminals are held. Reports indicate that he is not in good condition. He must sleep on the floor without a bed, which has caused severe pain in his back. He was previously held in solitary confinement for three months.

The judiciary reaffirmed the execution sentence of a Kurdish political prisoner -- Zanyar Moradi, 21, who is incarcerated in Rajaei Shahr Prison. Moradi and another Kurdish political prisoner, Loghman Moradi, were accused and convicted of murdering the son of the Friday Prayer Imam of Marivan and membership in Komalah, an outlawed Kurdish political group. Zanyar Moradi's father rejects the charges and alleges that a member of the Revolutionary Guards, Hiva Yatab, committed the murder, but because the Guards wish to hide this fact, they have set up his son and accused him of the murder.

Dr. Davood Soleimani, a senior member of the banned reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front, was granted a furlough. He was arrested in the aftermath of the 2009 presidential election and imprisoned for two years. Soleiman, a university professor and a Majles deputy from 2000 to 2004, has been sentenced to three years of incarceration and a 20-year ban on political and social activities.

The six-year sentence of journalist Abdol Reza Tajik was reaffirmed by an appeals court. He was arrested three times since the 2009 election, and was released after his third arrest by posting a bail of about $450,000. Reporters without Borders honored Tajik in 2010.

Brigadier General Esmail Ahmadi Moghaddam, commander of the national police, said that working with the BBC and Voice of America is an offense. He added that those who wish to work with the broadcasters must first obtain a permit from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. "Documentary filmmakers, actors, and others can work with the two organizations only if they are not pursuing certain [political] goals in Iran," he added.

Reinterpreting Ayatollah Khamenei's view of the presidency

In an interview with Mehr News Agency, Majles Speaker Ali Larijani defended a recent suggestion of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei about replacing the post of president with a prime minister. Larijani also explained that Khamenei did not speak about reviving the post of the prime minister, but electing the president by a different method, through the Majles. He said doing so will create "better coordination" between the three branches.

Larijani stated that in some countries the president is elected by the parliament. "At high levels and in strategic management, people must have great experience and expertise for running the country. This is sometimes decided by the people and sometimes by the experts. For example, for selecting the Supreme Leader, the qualifications of the candidates must be carefully examined, which is done by the Assembly of Experts. Thus, people elect the Experts and they select the Supreme Leader." Larijani added that the same method can be used to elect the president. He said that direct election of a president can be successful only when there are strong "ideological parties" in the country.

Meanwhile, Majles deputy Hamid Reza Katouzian, who was the first to speak about the possibility of eliminating the post of the president, said that Iran's political system is a dual one for the president, and this has created some misunderstanding. According to him, the president is the chief of the executive branch, but at the same time finds himself in the position of the secondary leadership of the country. "The power of the Supreme Leader in our country is similar to those of presidents in other countries," Katouzian said. "According to our constitution, the president is [only] the chief of the executive branch."

Ahmadinejad versus Khamenei

Arman Shahr, a conservative website reputedly pro-Ahmadinejad, claimed that all the attacks on the president have been with Khamenei's permission. An article carrying a byline of "Hamed" says,

Friends, who support Ahmadinejad, let us stop fooling ourselves. Since the day I heard what the Supreme Leader [Khamenei] said when he met with the cabinet, I have essentially reached the conclusion that the fierce attacks of the past several months on the government by the principlists have occurred with the Leader's permission and green light. I had been waiting a week for the meeting to hear what the Leader would say. [But] the content of the Leader's speech, given the heavy propaganda environment against the administration over the past several months, was the opposite of what I had expected. In the first few days after the meeting, I was not sure about my conclusion. But, as time passes, evidence and codes that confirm my conclusion have become clearer. I'll explain this in the near future. Of course, Ayatollah Khamenei is opposed with immorality and unfairness in the attacks, but it appears that he is supportive of the overall approach of the principlists who aim to discredit Ahmadinejad.

The daily Iran, which is a strong supporter of Ahmadinejad, seemed to mock what Khamenei said. As noted by Tehran Bureau, in a speech in Kermanshah in western Iran, Khamenei said that it may become necessary to eliminate the post of the president at some point in the future, and have the Majles select a prime minister as the chief of the executive branch. The Iran article said,

Those who want to be known as the political elite are after such a plan. The competition now is over recognition. That means everybody is trying to find a way to get himself recognized. For example, in order for you [the person who is after recognition] to demonstrate that you are a political elite, you may say we do not need a president, but need a prime minister, or a magistrate.

This article was removed from the Iran website, but not before it was noted by others. Interestingly, Dolat-e Ma, a website that supports Ahmadinejad and had reposted Iran's article, was first blocked and then replaced the article by blank space.

An article by Jafar Mohammadi published by Asre Iran, a hardline website, warned that Muammar Qaddafi's fate is for all dictators. Mohammadi is the managing editor of another website, Asr-e Emrooz, which supports Khamenei. In his article, Mohammadi said that Qaddafi was not a dictator when he came to power after a coup in 1969. But gradually he closed "all the openings to democracy" and thought that he is aghl-e kol (the embodiment of complete wisdom, the only person who understands everything). "There was no free press in Libya, and the blood-thirsty dictator had threatened all the bloggers not to write anything against him," Mohammadi added. It's unclear who in Iran's power structure was the target of Mohammadi's comments because Ahmadinejad does not control the press, but his opponents have accused him of dictatorship.

Absar News, another pro-Ahmadinejad website, fiercely attacked two political groups: the takfiri (excommunicating) current and the tazviri (hypocrite) current. The former, according to the website, consists of former Ahmadinejad supporters who are now against him, the latter, those who were always opposed to him. The website implied that both were supporters of Khamenei. Absar News then opined that the supporters of Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf and Majles Speaker Ali Larijani are in the tazviri group. It referred to Ghalibaf as the "Hezbollah Reza Khan," a reference to Reza Shah who ruled Iran from 1925 to 1941 as an absolute military dictator. "Due to the silence of the responsible organs [the judiciary], the hatred in 2005 of the supporters of Hezbollah Reza Khan has now become insult and aspersion against Ahmadinejad," the website said.

Then, in an interview with Jahan News, Mohammad Dehghan, who is a member of the Majles leadership, warned that if Ahmadinejad leads the state and the political system to a "dead end," he will be confronted very "severely." Dehghan said that there are currently two views among the conservatives as to what to do with Ahmadinejad. One believes that "the state must act in a way as to prevent the perverted group from disrupting the Islamic state so that Ahmadinejad can finish his second term." The second holds the view that "if the pressure on this group is lessened, they will feel relieved and may again disturb the tranquility of the society."

As previously noted here, Mojtaba Daneshtalab, a conservative blogger who supports Ahmadinejad, criticized Khamenei for suggesting that the post of the president may be eliminated sometime in the future. After his blog was posted, it was almost immediately blocked. He has started another blog that carries an apology to Khamenei. He also sates that his only intention was to provide constructive criticism, not insult the Leader. He also thanked those who protested the block on his original blog and criticized the "counter-revolutionary media" for abusing what he said. "My opposition to such opportunism is clear," he said.

Former Revolutionary Guard officer and current Majles deputy Esmail Mohammad Kosari, deputy chairman of the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, said that the Ministry of Intelligence has documented evidence on a link between Ahmadinejad and foreign power that will be revealed at the appropriate time. In an interview with Mashregh News, a hardline website close to the security forces, Kosari, who used to be one of the strongest supporters of Ahmadinejad, claimed, "the perverted group has two aspects. One aspect is its belief. It claims that it can directly communicate with Imam Mahdi and, therefore, does not need Velaayat-e Faghih [guardianship of the Islamic jurist]. This is a perversion by itself. The second aspect of this group is in its links with foreigners. The documents about such links are in the hands of our security and intelligence forces, and will be made available to the people at the appropriate time."

Former Ahmadinejad supporter Mohammad Khoshchehreh said in an interview that Ahmadinejad's team has taken out a considerable number of classified documents from the Ministry of Intelligence and uses the information to its own benefit. He claimed that the names of many officials are in such documents, and the information in the documents has not been verified in many cases. "Right from the beginning access to such documents [by Ahmadinejad's team] was not for correcting the affairs [of the state], but for using to attack the competitors. Who leads this should be investigated. As noted by Tehran Bureau, Ahmadinejad's supporters have said that he has in his possession 140,000 documents pertaining to 314 officials.

Foreign policy

In response to a letter by Saeed Jalili, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator and secretary-general of the Supreme National Security Council, Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign policy chief, announced in a letter on Friday that the 5+1 group -- the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany -- is willing to resume talks with Iran within weeks if Tehran is prepared to "engage seriously in meaningful discussions." If Iran is ready to discuss concrete confidence-building measures without preconditions, "we would be willing to agree on a next meeting within the coming weeks at a mutually convenient venue," Ashton said. "I welcome your suggestion to resume talks, in order to take fundamental steps for sustainable cooperation," she said in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, as reported by Mehr News Agency. Ashton said the goal "remains a comprehensive negotiated, long-term solution which restores international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program. In order to start such a process, our initial objective is to engage in a confidence-building exercise aimed at facilitating a constructive dialogue on the basis of reciprocity and a step-by-step approach."

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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