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Appeals Court Rules Filmmakers Panahi and Rasoulof Must Go to Jail

17 Oct 2011 18:00Comments

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

8:15 p.m., 25 Mehr/October 17 Iranian financiers suspected of growing rich through links to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps are flaunting their wealth through the import of exclusive fast cars, an investigation backed by the European Union has found. Some 48 exclusive top-of-the-range sports cars were reportedly imported between March and July 2011 by buyers in just three cities: Tehran, Isfahan, and Shiraz.

"[W]e actually learned that a very exclusive batch of sports cars had been sent to Tehran and Shiraz, which included three Bugattis, five Maseratis, and two Rolls Royce Phantoms with a total retail value of 9 million pounds," or $14.2 million, [Mehrdad] Emadi says. "But the most noticeable thing was that these were actually ordered by two people. Two individuals between themselves had ordered this batch."

PanahiGreenVest.jpgRasoulofGreenScarf.jpg

Jafar Panahi. Mohammad Rasoulof.

6 p.m., 25 Mehr/October 17 Our columnist Muhammad Sahimi compiled the following news items and commentary:

Human rights

Last December, distinguished film directors Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof were sentenced to six years in jail and 20-year bans on filmmaking, screenwriting, giving interviews, and traveling abroad. This past weekend, it was announced that an appeals court had fully upheld Panahi's six-year sentence, while it reduced Rasoulof's sentence to one year. The two filmmakers were convicted of conspiring "to commit crimes against the country's national security and propaganda against the Islamic Republic." Panahi's attorney said that she will appeal the new ruling to Iran's Supreme Court.

Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, United Nations special rapporteur for human rights in Iran, has submitted his first report to the United Nations without being allowed to travel to the Islamic Republic. The 24-page report discusses the treatment of political activists, journalists, university activists, artists, attorneys, and environmental activists; freedom of assembly; women's rights; ethnic and religious minorities; the death penalty; and imprisonment because of working with foreign organizations. Shaheed mentions that he has personally spoken to two informed sources about Mousavi's and Karroubi's conditions under extralegal house arrest and has expressed his grave concerns about the opposition leaders' situation. The report discusses 34 Iranian journalists currently in jail, specifically mentioning Dr. Ahmad Zeidabadi, Mohammad Davari, Isa Saharkhiz, Hossein Ronaghi Malaki, Masoud Bastani, Bahman Ahmadi Amouei, Mohammad Sadigh Kaboodvand, and Keyvan Samimi, and how they are denied their most basic citizen rights. The death of journalist Hoda Saber in jail is another case that is mentioned as an example of political prisoners' poor conditions. The report also addresses the imprisonment of university activists Abdollah Momeni, Arash Sadeghi, Ramin Parchami and Ali Malihi and filmmakers Panahi and Rasoulof, and referring to a report by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, describes the pressure on the attorneys who defend the political prisoners. In particular, it mentions prominent attorney and human rights advocate Nasrin Sotoudeh, currently serving an 11-year prison sentence. The report also criticizes the "widespread violation" of the fundamental rights of ethnic and religious minorities, particularly the Baha'i religious minority.

In a letter to Khamenei, the 86-year-old mother of imprisoned former Majles deputy Dr. Ghasem Sholeh Sadi asked, "What has my son done and what is his offense?" She wrote, "I have no request for the release of my son from prison. He is a thoughtful scholar who has risked his life and that of his family to defend the rights of the Iranian nation.... If the organs of [the state] have become corrupted, you should look for its reason in your judiciary for which the laws have become meaningless and which has become obedient to your security apparatus that, instead of defending the rights and freedom of the people, has become an organ for suppressing freedom and freedom seekers." Referring to another of her children, Asghar Sholeh Sadi, who was killed during the Iran-Iraq War, she wrote, "My son did not become a martyr so that the security and judicial officials could blatantly violate the laws. I am the mother of a family that has raised several legal scholars and, thus, I am familiar with the laws. The conviction of my son is based on the letter that he wrote to you ten years ago, for which the statute of limitation expired long ago. The conviction was also recognized as being against religion by then judiciary chief [Ayatollah Seyyed Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi], who declared it unenforceable. But your judiciary is enforcing it now."

Nationalist-religious figure Dr. Mohammad Maleki, who was the first chancellor of the University of Tehran after the Revolution, has been sentenced to one year of imprisonment. The charge against him was "propaganda against the state." He was arrested in the aftermath of the 2009 election and spent 191 days in prison.

Revolutionary Guards' fierce attack on Ahmadinejad

Javan Online, the website controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, declared on Saturday that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his team -- in particular, what the hardliners refer to as the "perverted group" led by the president's chief of staff and close confidant Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei -- "has no social base" among the people. It claims that the "perverted group" has studied its position in the society and has recognized its unpopularity. The group's supposed efforts to make contact with the elite, the social base of the "sedition" -- the Green Movement -- and with other important factions have also proven fruitless. Thus, the group's leaders "have declared an emergency state" and are developing means of election advocacy and propaganda.

As noted by Tehran Bureau, another Revolutionary Guard mouthpiece, the weekly Sobh-e Sadegh, had already declared that Ahmadinejad is a "product" of the Hojjatieh Society, whose main goal is to create instability in the leadership of the state and discredit Velaayat-e Faghih (guardianship of the Islamic jurist, as represented by the Supreme Leader).

Ahmadinejad and his critics and supporters

In a blog entry published on his own website, Mohammad Taghi Karroubi, a son of Mehdi Karroubi, harshly criticized two unnamed members of the Guardian Council. He wrote,

I would like to remind the two members of the Guardian Council that, by changing the people's votes, spilling the blood of the nation's children on the streets, hiding the crimes that occurred in the Kahrizak detention center, supporting the use of violence in Friday Prayer sermons...and encouraging the judiciary to issue political verdicts against the elite of the nation, the most corrupt government in Iran's history came to power through fraud.

Three hundred and fifty million dollars disappeared from [the] Tehran [budget when Ahmadinejad was mayor]. Oil was exported illegally. Mines, communication companies, and other national resources were sold cheaply under the guise of Article 44 [of the Constitution, which concerns privatization], but nothing happened, and even the Minister of Economic Affairs [Seyyed Shamseddin Hosseini] has denied any corruption.

Majles deputy and former Ahmadinejad supporter Ali Asghar Zarei told the Basij branch at the University of Tehran that the "sedition" and "perversion" have the same roots, and that "we have reports indicating that some malom-olhal [corrupted people] are campaigning in the provinces for the perverted group for the [Majles] elections. He rejected the notion that the Jebheh Paaydari-ye Enghelab Eslami (JPEE, or Durable Front of the Islamic Revolution) is a creation of Ahmadinejad, saying, "Give us a reason and we will dissolve the group. Are [Mohammad Taghi] Mesbah Yazdi and [Azizollah] Khoshvaght [father-in-law of one of Khamenei's sons] also creations of Ahmadinejad?" The two reactionary clerics have played leading roles in the formation of the JPEE, which consists mostly of former Ahmadinejad administration officials and parliamentary supporters. Zarei claimed, "The JPEE was formed so that if Ahmadinejad could not carry out his duties, people can continue.... The JPEE has written a confidential letter to the ulema in which we said that they [Ahmadinejad's critics] insult the JPEE using profanities."

A new controversy has arisen over the son-in-law of Parvin Ahmadinejad, the president's sister. Hamid Reza Afrashteh is an adviser to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on youth affairs and secretary-general of the International Conference on Youth, to be held in Iran. He has asked Vice President for Executive Affairs Hamid Baghaei to provide him with a budget of 51 billion tomans (about $45 million) to organize the conference. In August, Ahmadinejad asked that Afrashteh be given a scholarship to pursue a doctoral degree. He and his wife also traveled to Geneva to take part in an international conference on non-governmental organizations.

In a speech to a group of high school students, Ahmadinejad fiercely attacked those who oppose his plan to make Thursday a nonschool day. He said that the opposition "is having fun and filling up its vacation days with trips abroad, but acts intellectual and opposes no school on Thursdays, claiming that it is not in the interest of the country." He added, "I believe we should not consider this as [a day for] doing nothing. The students are with their families which is work in a way, and does not mean a holiday."

Farajollah Salahshour, a pro-Ahmadinejad filmmaker and director of the television series Prophet Yousef, fiercely attacked Iran's movie industry, likening it to a whorehouse. Responding to the report that Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie may travel to Iran, he said, "Is it not true that our women [actresses] put their half-naked pictures on the Internet? That means each is an Angelina Jolie by herself. Iran's movie industry needs to bring an international prostitute here to continue its work." In response, five prominent actresses, Taraneh Alidoosti, Pegah Ahanfarani, Hanieh Tavassoli, Negar Javaherian, and Baran Kosari, issued a statement that criticized Salahshoor and suggested he quit directing. They declared, "Mr. Salahshoor, we are sorry to see that working on the lives of the prophets and making them a model [for the people] has not had any effect on you, and that you have earned a reputation for spreading hatred and rudeness toward your compatriots." Salahshoor later claimed that he had been misquoted.

Ahmad Nategh Nouri, a member of the Majles leadership team, harshly criticized those who "suddenly fell in love with Ahmadinejad, and victimized everything for his sake." He added, "The belief of many has been destroyed. Lies and sins cannot advance people, eventually destroying one instead." In the televised presidential debates of June 2009, Ahmadinejad accused Ali Akbar Nategh Nouri, Ahmad's brother, of corruption. Referring back to that incident, Ahmad Nategh Nouri said, "Mr. Ahmadinejad must provide a list of the assets of the Nateghs. If he does not have it, he must explain why he made the accusations."

Reaction to U.S. allegations of an assassination plot

In a speech in Gilan Gharb in western Iran, Khamenei reacted to the U.S. charges that the Islamic Republic was plotting to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador in Washington, D.C.: "The enemy is trying to isolate the Iranian nation and scare the world about Iran, but as always it will achieve nothing other than deep hatred of the nations toward the United States and increasing enthusiasm of people [around the world] for the honorable slogans of the Iranian nation."

Ahmadinejad said, "They accuse the Iranian nation of terrorism, whereas terrorism is the work of uncultured people. The Iranian nation is a cultured nation and does not need terrorism." Referring to the Western powers, he said, "Terror is what you do." He added, "The pressure is to prevent our advancement."

In a meeting of the Expediency Discernment Council, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani condemned the U.S. allegations. He said, "Negative and extensive propaganda of world powers, in coordination with the negative statements of the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the U.N. rapporteur on human rights in Iran means that we must have a strong and alert diplomacy and deep evaluation of this new conspiracy in the qualified centers and the Supreme National Security Council."

In an interview on national radio Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi cautioned Saudi Arabia against reacting hastily. Discussing the allegations, he said, "The majority of the people of Saudi Arabia are aware of this superficial scenario and know that this is a cover for the internal and international failures of the United States." He continued, "We do not have any problem with Saudi Arabia. [If there is one], the problem is about the different interpretations we and Saudi Arabia have of developments in the region. Saudi Arabia should cautiously study this, because the enemy is trying to create fissures among the nations of the region. The Saudis are wiser than to get involved in this political game."

The Foreign Ministry issued an official statement that criticized the United States for the allegations. It read in part, "The arrested man [Mansour Arbabsiar] has been living in the United States for at least 16 years and has no link with any official or organs of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Announcing one-sided accusations against a citizen of the United States without presenting any evidence and creating an anti-Iran media wave are not compatible with any legal rationale, and are a purely political/mass media show."

Ali Younesi, minister of intelligence for most of Mohammad Khatami's presidency, said that the allegations are "an amateurish and stupid scenario that has been conceived by Israel against Iran, Saudi Arabia, and even the United States." He added, "If the scenario had been conceived the right way and accepted by the public, Israel would have benefited greatly. But because it is so unreal, even in the United States and Saudi Arabia many did not believe it." Younesi, however, also criticized the foreign policy of the Ahmadinejad administration, which has been called 'aggressive" by the president himself. Younesi said, "The current foreign policy is not aggressive, but only creates more enemies."

Alaeddin Boroujerdi, chairman of the Majles's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission said, "Unlike Iran, Saudi Arabia cannot resist the United States threat. The scenario by the United States has forced Saudi Arabia, as an ally of that country, to accept it. He added, "Saudi Arabia knows well that we do not commit terrorist acts, because we are a victim of terrorism ourselves. Therefore, I believe that the Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister [Saud al-Faisal] has said such things [threatening Iran] under pressure by the United States. The documents that the U.S. [purportedly] has and their scenario have no credibility." An editorial in Alef, the website published by Majles deputy Ahmad Tavakoli, rebuked al-Faisal for his warning that any action by Iran against Saudi Arabia would prompt a strong reaction from his country. The editorial declared, "Your American master does not dare to attack Iran, let alone the cowardly and inexperienced soldiers of Saudi Arabia.... If the Iranian nation despises two regimes, one is the al-Saud dynasty in Saudi Arabia."

An article in Sobh-e Sadegh analyzes whether the United States has any documented evidence against Iran regarding the allegations, and concludes that it has none. The magazine also published an interview with Lieutenant Brigadier General Yadollah Javani, the ultra-hardline head of the Revolutionary Guards' political directorate, in which he said, "The Islamic Republic is a religious government that has been a main victim of terrorism, condemns terrorism, and has always had a fundamental problem with terrorism. Therefore, the officials of the Islamic Republic regard the White House allegations as a conspiracy and scenario [against Iran] and condemn it strongly."

Letter of political figures to Khatami

One hundred and forty-three important political figures, including some who are currently imprisoned, have written a letter to former President Mohammad Khatami in which they declare that the conditions that he set for the reformists and democratic opposition to take part in the Majles elections next March have not been fulfilled and that http://www.kaleme.com/1390/07/23/klm-76783/ "undoubtedly you also agree that, given the continuing illegal house arrest of Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and [Mousavi's wife, Dr.] Zahra Rahnavard, the continuing illegal arrests of social and political activists, and the absence of any independent organ to oversee the elections, the minimum conditions for holding free, nonfraudulent, and fair elections do not exist." The signatories of the letters hailed Khatami for his "resistance, bravery, and bluntness" and urged him to continue his efforts. Khatami has repeatedly indicated that the opposition should not take part in the elections, and the letter seems to be intended to reenforce his position and support his continued calls for fulfillment of the conditions -- unconditional release of all political prisoners, freedom for the press and political parties, elimination of the Guardian Council's power to vet and reject candidates, and electoral supervision by a neutral organ. Among the letter's signatories are imprisoned journalists Emad Bahavar and Ali Reza Tajik; Dr. Habibollah Peyman, leader of the nationalist-religious Movement of Militant Muslims; imprisoned reformist former Deputy Interior Minister Mostafa Tajzadeh; attorney Mohammad Ali Dadkhah; imprisoned nationalist-religious figure Dr. Ali Reza Rajaei; and Dr. Abdollah Ramazanzadeh, imprisoned former spokesman for the Khatami administration.

In a meeting with a group of academics, Khatami said,

Creating a security environment in universities and the entire nation and limiting the legitimate rights [of the people], particularly academics and students, creates a foundation for a threat [against the nation], which is the tendency toward creating underground [resistance] organizations that are separated from the society, and over time become rigid [in their thinking], self-centered, and begin thinking about overthrowing [everything].

It is a grave mistake if it is thought that by closing the society and creating superficial calm, the society is actually calm. The violent confrontation with the protestors after the [2009] election was not a solution. If the protest had been channeled wisely through the political groups and parties, so that people could express their opinion, it would have created security in the society. This would have meant respecting and recognizing people, continuation of their activities through social canals, preventing an environment of hopelessness and disappointment, and debating solutions at the societal level. If our press was free, if the political groups and parties were free, they could criticize [constructively] and oversight would be more serious. In many countries, the press can sack a government. If there is such freedom, corruption is prevented and the tendency to dictatorship is prevented. Perhaps the worst type of dictatorship is one in which the government is powerful, but feels that it has no responsibility [toward the people] and can do what it wants.

Majles

A plan is being drawn up by a group of Majles deputies to impeach Minister of Energy Majid Namjoo. Among the grounds are the ministry's failure to pay what it owes to its contractors, which has forced many into bankruptcy and itss inability to solve the chronic water shortage. There was a previous motion to impeach Namjoo in March; he retained office by a single vote, 102 to 101.

Discussing the resignation of Majles deputy Ali Motahari, reformist cleric and fellow deputy Ghodratollah Alikhani said, "In one word, the Majles is not powerful enough to question the president." He protested the way the parliament's leadership has handled the issue, and declared, "It is wrong not to question the president. Mr. Ahmadinejad must be summoned to the Majles and respond to the questions."

Responding to speculation that his resignation announcement was purely a political gesture on which he does not intend to follow through, Motahari said on Sunday that it is serious. He said, "I explored every possibility to advance the plan to question the president, but could not do it; resignation was the last resort. Suppose that questioning the president is wrong [at this time] -- I should reach the conclusion by myself. The president should attend a Majles session and respond to the questions. Otherwise, the Majles deputies [who want to question Ahmadinejad] will not easily give up the plan." Motahari also said that the fact that Khamenei has remained silent means that he has no problem with the plan. Mohammad Dehghan, member of the parliamentary leadership, confirmed that Motahari has not changed his mind about resigning.

Political analyst Dr. Sadegh Zibakalam, a professor at the University of Tehran, predicted that only 10-20 percent of the population in large cities will vote in next year's Majles elections. In a debate with Hamid Reza Taraghi, deputy secretary-general of the conservative Islamic Coalition Party, published by the monthly Hamshahri Mah, Ziabakalam said that in small towns and villages 60-80 percent of the people will vote because of local and "tribal" competitions.

Majles deputy Seyyed Fazel Mousavi, a member of the Article 90 Commission , which investigates citizens' complaints against officials, said that the more the multibillion-dollar embezzlement case that has roiled the country's financial system is studied, the more irregularities are discovered, which has prevented the commission from reaching any conclusions.

Economic Affairs Minister Hosseini testified in a Majles session of the Majles and responded to deputies' criticisms. "What was the reason for hastily distributing the [so-called] justice shares right before the presidential election of 2009?" he was asked. Hosseini responded, "I acted according to the laws and have never yielded to political pressure. It is not true that the shares were distributed using the earnings from oil exports, because the shares were given from the profit of government-controlled companies, most of which are profitable." Reformist deputy Mostafa Kavakebian said that he was not satisfied by the response.

Economy

The Tehran stock market declined sharply on Sunday, falling 377 points, or 1.5 percent of its total value.

A group of dairy producers has traveled to Tehran to protest the government's failure to pay what it owes to them, as well as nonpayment of the subsidies that the government is supposed to provide to keep their prices low. They say that the nonpayment has driven many of them to bankruptcy, but the government is not paying any attention. When they gathered in front of a ministry to protest, instead of receiving payments, several were arrested.

The government owes the National Iranian Gas Company close to $310 million. The debt is due to the sale of natural gas at a higher price after the slashing of energy subsidies. Nonpayment of the debt has created considerable difficulties for the NIGC.

Foreign reports

On Saturday, the New York Times reported that President Barack Obama is pressuring the International Atomic Energy Agency to release classified intelligence information that supposedly indicates that Iran is designing and experimenting with nuclear weapons technology. According to the report, the president's push is part of a larger U.S. effort to further isolate and increase pressure on Iran. The longer-term goal of the Obama administration, according to "senior officials" who spoke with the Times, is to ban financial transactions with Iran's Central Bank, a move that has been opposed by Germany and China. The United States also wants to expand its ban on the purchase of petroleum products sold by companies controlled by the Revolutionary Guards.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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