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News | Iran Agency's Morsi 'Interview' Denied; Death Sentences for Drinking

by DAN GEIST

26 Jun 2012 06:30Comments

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. Any views expressed are the authors' own. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

MorsiPressTV.jpg6:30 a.m. IRDT, 6 Tir/June 26 The Fars New Agency, which is controlled by a foundation of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, on Monday published a purported interview with Egyptian president-elect Mohamed Morsi that quoted him as wanting to "create a strategic balance" in the Middle East through closer ties with Iran, but a Morsi spokesman has denied the interview ever took place. According to Reuters, Morsi aide Yasser Ali said, "There was never a meeting with the Iranian news agency Fars and what was taken as statements has no basis in truth." The Reuters report continues,
On its web page, Fars published a transcript and an audio of the conversation. Reuters was unable to verify the recording but the man purported to be Morsi did not sound exactly like him. [...]

In what looked like a reversal of comments Morsi made in a televised address after his victory was announced on Sunday, Fars news quoted him as saying Egypt's Camp David peace accord with Israel "will be reviewed", without elaborating.

The Morsi camp's denial of the interview was affirmed by an unnamed spokesman to Egypt's state-funded Middle East News Agency (MENA), according to an AFP report:

"Mr Morsi did not give any interview to Fars and everything that this agency has published is without foundation," a spokesman for the Egyptian presidency told the official news agency MENA.

Fars had said that Morsi spoke to one of its reporters in Cairo on Sunday just before his election triumph was announced. [...]

According to Fars, Morsi also said the issue of Palestinian refugees returning to homes their families abandoned in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and the 1967 Six-Day War "is very important". [...]

Later, the official Iranian news agency IRNA quoted President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying he hoped Morsi's election would help bolster ties between the Shiite Islamic republic and majority Sunni Muslim Egypt.

On Monday night, Tehran time, a brief article appeared on the website of Press TV, the English-language subsidiary of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, which states, "The Egyptian presidential office rejects a report that claimed the country's new President Mohamed Morsi had pledged to upgrade ties with Tehran. Fars News Agency had earlier quoted Morsi as saying that Egypt is eager to normalize its economic and political relations with Iran on the basis of common interests." As of press time, Fars continued to prominently feature the supposed interview on both its Farsi and English-language websites.

Last month, frequent Tehran Bureau columnist Amir Bagherpour took a look at The Future of Egypt and What It Means for Iran. And for more on the relationship between the Islamic Republic and Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, as whose candidate Morsi stood, see here.

***
ConfiscatingAlcohol.jpgTwo Iranian citizens have been sentenced to death after each was convicted a third time of having consumed alcohol, which is forbidden under the country's sharia law. Seyyed Hassan Shariati, head of the judiciary in the northeastern province of Khorasan-e Razavi, told the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) that the death sentences had been upheld by the Supreme Court. He said that each of the two people, whom he did not name, has already been lashed a total of 160 times -- 80 lashes is the standard penalty for the first two convictions on drinking charges.

"We will not show mercy in alcoholic beverage offenses," said Shariati, "and we will sentence the offenders to the harshest letter of the law." Despite the strict ban on alcohol consumption, in effect since the 1979 Revolution, as many as 20 million gallons of alcohol are smuggled into the country each year and an untold amount is produced domestically, much of it by ordinary citizens in makeshift home distilleries.

According to a Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty report,

Iran's "Shargh" daily reports that the last time an execution was ordered for a repeat offender of the country's alcohol laws, in 2007, the sentence was overturned after the convict expressed contrition. [...]

Iran's police chief, Esmail Ahmadi Moghadam, is quoted as saying that Iran has some 200,000 alcoholics.

Only members of Iran's Christian minorities are exempt from alcohol laws, but they are required to drink behind closed doors.

Notwithstanding the rarity of a death sentence for alcohol consumption, Shariati told ISNA that "we are preparing to administer it." Amnesty International reports that the Islamic Republic of Iran annually has, by some distance, the second-highest number of executions in the world, trailing only the People's Republic of China.

***
AshtainiDoc.jpgThe Times of London reports that the international campaign to save Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, convicted of adultery and complicity in her husband's murder, from the sentence of death by stoning imposed on her by an Iranian court appears to have been successful. Her lawyer and others knowledgable about the case believe that she is now serving only a ten-year sentence as a murder accomplice; Ashtiani has been incarcerated since 2006. According to correspondent Martin Fletcher's report,
"From what I'm hearing, the stoning sentence has been lifted and she could be released on parole before finishing her prison sentence," said Mohammed Mostafaei, Ms Ashtiani's lawyer, who was forced into exile for publicising her case but still has contacts inside Iran. [...]

Naghi Mahmoudi, a lawyer forced to flee Iran for defending Houtan Kian, Ms Ashtiani's second lawyer, who was arrested for representing her, added: "It's very unlikely the stoning sentence will ever be carried out. All the international publicity the case got has made it too costly for the regime." [...]

Mr Mostafaei said her husband was a drug addict who repeatedly beat her and sought to sell her to friends for sex.

She was sentenced to death by stoning for alleged adultery, having already been lashed 99 times. She was also convicted for complicity in her husband's murder, although human rights activists say she was denied a fair trial by a system heavily weighted against women. Her alleged partner was convicted of actual murder, but walked free after her children exercised their right to pardon him under Islamic law.

The image above is from a "documentary" that aired on Iranian state television in December 2010 in which Ashtiani was brought from prison to her home to "reenact" the murder of her husband for the benefit of the cameras. That very special program followed three separate "confessions" by Ashtiani that aired on Iranian television in the preceding months.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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