News | 90 Political Prisoners To Be Freed; Ex-Ministers: Dump Ahmadinejad
by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI
16 Aug 2012 14:55
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.2:55 p.m. IRDT, 26 Mordad/August 16 On Wednesday morning, Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi announced that on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr, the celebration that marks the end of Ramadan, 90 political prisoners had received clemency from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and would be released. Many of them are young people who were arrested while participating in the demonstrations that followed the June 2009 presidential election. Dolatabadi also announced reductions in the sentences of 40 others incarcerated on political charges. As of Wednesday evening, 61 of the prisoners, including seven women, had been released; most had already served almost their entire sentences. There was a report from Tehran last week that 13 political prisoners have been lashed as part of their sentences -- six of those 13 are among those who have been released. The names of those who have been freed so far are listed here.
Among the better-known prisoners who have been released are Mehdi (Koorosh) Koohkan, Ali Malihi (pictured at right), Hamzeh Karami (pictured on homepage), Esmail Sahabeh, and Rahman Boozari. Koohkan, a cultural activist, was arrested in February 2010 and sentenced to three years, six months, and four days of incarceration, 148 lashes, and a 250,000 toman fine (about $200 at the time). Malihi, a graduate of Sharif University of Technology, is in charge of public relations for the opposition Organization of University Graduates. He was arrested in February 2010 and sentenced to four years of incarceration. Karami, a senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander during the war with Iraq, served in various positions in the administrations of former Presidents Akbar Hashem Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami, and was a major figure in Mir Hossein Mousavi's 2009 presidential campaign. He was arrested in the aftermath of the election, sentenced to 11 years of imprisonment, and barred forever from again holding government office. While in jail, he wrote a letter to Khamenei describing his torture. Sahabeh, a member of the youth committee of the outlawed reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front, was arrested in October 2009 and held for two months until he posted bail. In August 2010, he was sentenced to four and a half years of incarceration. Boozari, a journalist, has worked for several reformist newspapers, including Shargh, Kargozaaraan, and Hammihan. He was arrested in May 2011.
Attorney, university professor, and former Majles deputy Ghasem Sholeh Sadi has also been released. In 2002, he declared that Khamenei's rule was illegal and was detained for a time as a result. He was arrested again in April 2011 and sentenced to one year of incarceration. That October, his sentence was increased to three years after he was charged with "insulting the Supreme Leader."
Meanwhile, the release list includes none of the most prominent political prisoners -- those who have the ability to organize peaceful demonstrations, and who have been repeatedly spoken out even from behind prison walls. In fact, Abolfazl Ghadiani, one of the oldest political prisoners at age 67 and a prominent member of the leading reformist group, the Organization of Islamic Revolution Mojahedin, who had been hospitalized for heart problems, was returned to Evin Prison after his family's request for a medical furlough was rejected. Ghadiani -- who was incarcerated for five years before the 1979 Revolution -- has been imprisoned for 18 months. Originally handed a one-year sentence, once he completed that term he was given an additional two years. He has had heart surgery three times; on none of those occasions was he granted a furlough and, in fact, was returned to prison before he had recuperated. During his trial, he declared, "We did not revolt [in 1979] so that Mr. Khamenei can rule like a king. I know my record indicates my support for Velaayat-e Faghih [rule of the Supreme Leader] in the past, but that was a grave mistake. Velaayat-e Faghih leads to dictatorship." Moreover, the prison sentence of journalist Mahsa Amrabadi has been increased from one to two years. Her husband, journalist Masoud Bastani, is himself serving a six-year sentence. At least 40 Iranian journalists remain in prison. And Fatemeh Karroubi, wife of Green Movement leader Mehdi Karroubi, just reported that she has not been allowed to visit her husband -- now entering his 18th month of extralegal "house arrest" -- during Ramadan.
Supreme Leader urged to strip Ahmadinejad of power
Iran, the state newspaper controlled by supporters of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, reported in its Monday edition that former Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and former Interior Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi, both of whom served in the first Ahmadinejad administration (2005-09), have written a letter to Khamenei urging him to take away the president's remaining authority. Other reports indicate that the letter was also signed by former Power Minister Farhad Rahbar (currently chancellor of the University of Tehran) and former Economic and Financial Affairs Minister Davood Danesh Jafari. According to Iran, the letter suggests that the Supreme Leader form a national committee consisting of the heads of the other branches of government and some elder statesmen to run the country until next year's presidential election. The letter, according to Iran, was intend "to make it look like the country is in a crisis, and propose illegal ways of addressing the hypothetical crisis."
Farda, the website that is close to Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, reported that a group of Majles deputies has written a similar letter to Khamenei. According to Farda's "informed source," however, the content of neither letter is as strongly anti-Ahmadinejad as Iran's description would have it. Mottaki has not denied the existence of the ministers' letter, but he too implied that it was not as described by Iran. According to Farda's source, Khamenei has yet to respond to either missive.
Panetta accuses Iran of forming pro-Assad militia
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta accused Iran of setting up and training a Shia-Alawite militia to bolster the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The force is apparently called the "Army of the People." Reaffirming Panetta's claim, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, said that the Syrian armed forces are "taxed" after almost a year and a half of constant operations and "that's why Iran is stepping in to form this militia, to take some of the pressure off of the Syrian military." Dempsey asserted that the army has problems with resupply, maintenance, and morale.
Tehran Bureau contributor Ali Chenar submits the following:
Ayatollah Khamenei paid an unexpected visit to the earthquake-stricken area of East Azerbaijan province. He inspected relief efforts and spoke to the residents of Sarand and Koovich villages in the township of Haris. Expressing his condolences, he told residents, "All Iranian people are with you in this trial." He asked the residents to be patient and at the same time emphasized that authorities should rally to speed up relief and reconstruction efforts.
The visit took place after severe criticism of the government from people around the country for what many social media users said amounted to ignoring the disaster. President Ahmadinejad, for instance, did not visit the disaster area, but instead left Tehran for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit in Saudi Arabia a day early. Many conservative outlets attacked the timing of his decision as "irresponsible." As one columnist rhetorically asked, "Would you have gone to Mecca if you had to run in an election next year?"
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