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News | Jailed Blogger Reportedly Killed; Intel Ministry Sees Promise in US Talks

by DAN GEIST

08 Nov 2012 11:57Comments

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.

SattarBeheshtiCloseup.jpgFree Expression Story of the Day

Online activist Sattar Beheshti reported dead of torture in prison

Sattar Beheshti, 35, who was arrested last week in his hometown of Robat Karim and incarcerated in Tehran's Evin Prison on national security charges, has died after being subjected to torture while in custody, according to reports by several opposition websites. Beheshti has been described as a worker and his family's sole breadwinner who spoke out on labor and human rights issues via Facebook.

The conservative Baztab website reported, "Sattar Beheshti, who was arrested by FATA [cyber] police, has died while being interrogated." An account that appeared on the Kaleme website -- affiliated with Green Movement leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, about to enter his 22d month of extralegal house arrest -- stated, "According to eyewitnesses who had spoken to family members held at Evin Prison, Beheshti had been severely beaten and tortured while under interrogation. Bruises and torture marks were noticeable on the political prisoner's body, face and head."

Beheshti's sister told the website that officials contacted her husband and told him to buy a grave and collect the body of his brother-in-law, which was apparently transferred to the forensics facility at the Kahrizak detention center. "We know nothing else," she said. "We don't know why they killed him, or what exactly happened. We don't know what happened. My brother was well when he left the house. He left on his own two feet. Everyone saw that he was healthy. My brother didn't even take headache pills.... They said he had heart problems!"

Established in January 2011 to "prevent espionage and sabotage," according to an official statement, Iran's cyber police force now has units in every province in the country. Officers with the unit responsible for Robat Karim, a town 15 miles southwest of the capital, raided Beheshti's home on Tuesday, October 30. In addition to placing him in custody --"violently," according to one report -- they confiscated his computer and notepads. For more on the Islamic Republic's crackdown on free expression online, see Oppression 2.0: Iranian Discontent in Cyberspace and A Kafkaesque Realm of Cyber Censorship.

Before his arrest, Beheshti wrote in a post, "They threatened me yesterday that my mother would wear black because I don't shut my mouth."

Headline of the Day

"Rafsanjani Calls for United Participation of Reformists in Presidential Election"

-- From Iran's semiofficial Mehr News Agency. The head of the expediency Discernment Council and former Iranian president -- whose son Mehdi and daughter Faezeh are currently incarcerated on anti-state charges -- met with members of a group identifying itself as the "Reformist Front" and "called for the united participation of the reformists in the presidential election" that will be held next June.

According to Mehr's report, Reformist Front spokesman Majid Mohtashami "said members of the front will meet with former president Mohammad Khatami in the near future to hold talks about the presidential election. The Reformist Front has announced that it will support Khatami if he decides to contest the election or will field only one candidate in the case Khatami refuses to run for the presidency."

Khatami shocked many of his political allies and Iranians generally when he voted in the elections for the Majles held this past March. He had repeatedly urged supporters of reform and democracy to boycott the elections unless the state met certain conditions, such as releasing all political prisoners and permitting a free press and unfettered political expression; none of those conditions were met.

The country's most prominent reformist parties -- the Islamic Iran Participation Front, Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization, and National Trust Party -- have all been banned for more than two years. The two reformist candidates in the 2009 presidential election, Mousavi and former Majles Speaker Mehdi Karroubi, have both been under house arrest since the pro-democracy street protests of 25 Bahman (February 14) last year. Mohtashami is secretary-general of the Freedom Party of Iran, a relatively obscure group. It is unclear who the other participants in his Reformist Front are.

Video of the Day

A look at how Iranian state media covered the U.S. presidential election; Press TV is the English-language subsidiary of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting. The clip begins with a report on President Barack Obama's successful bid for a second term, in which the host states that the United States "has a two-party system in which there is no chance for third parties to challenge for higher office." This is followed by an interview with Moufid Jaber of Beirut's Middle East Center for Studies and Public Relations, who opines, "Obama now has much less restraints than he had in his first term, because now he doesn't have a third term to worry about. So his approach concerning Iran and Syria is going to be much more flexible than it was before."

Geopolitical Analysis of the Week

"Reasons and Obstacles of a Military Attack by the Zionist Regime Against Iran"

-- Title of a report published on the Iranian Intelligence Ministry's website Tuesday and subsequently reposted by several state-aligned outlets. Beyond its use of the Iranian regime's standard epithet for Israel, the report, according to the Washington Post, "is otherwise devoid of the ideological tone that characterizes most ministry reports and that has been the Iranian norm for decades." The report addresses in unusually sober terms the international dispute over the Islamic Republic's uranium enrichment activities and the transparency of its nuclear program more broadly. Dismissing the prospect of military intervention would, it states, be an "unforgivable sin.... One of the options is to take diplomatic and political measures and use the potentials of international bodies, which is a necessary and less costly option." It observes, as well, that Obama's position is distinct from the rhetorically bellicose one of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and that the U.S. president "hopes to solve this issue peacefully and through diplomacy."

Photos of the Day

Birjand1.jpgBirjand2.jpg
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Rural life in Birjand County, South Khorasan province, near the Afghan border. The spice derived from the flower of the saffron crocus is one of the region's primary trade goods.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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