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'Are You Their Attorney?' Ahmadinejad Scoffs at Lead Greens on Spanish TV

17 Mar 2011 10:00Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Iranian 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

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad interviewed by RTVE's Ana Pastor (in Spanish).

10:00 a.m./March 17 Our columnist Muhammad Sahimi compiled the following news items and commentary:

In an interview with Spanish national television, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed that his regime has never cracked down on dissidents and the opposition. He said, "Never, never have we suppressed the opposition. We have had 30 democratic elections over the past 30 years." When asked about Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, Ahmadinejad responded, "Why should you know about it? Are you their attorney? There is opposition in every country, but there is also the law, and the opposition cannot break the law. Do you in Spain allow the opposition and the separatists to set government buildings and public assets on fire and beat up on people?"

In a report to the Human Rights Council, meeting in Geneva, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has strongly condemned the violation of human rights in Iran. He expressed his grave concern and said that Iran is continuing to arrest and imprison many journalists, bloggers, and attorneys. He described how Iranians in those occupations are widely prevented from doing their work, and emphasized the many reports of unjust trials and torture. According to his report, "What concerns us is the increase in the number of political prisoners that have been accused of Moharebeh [fighting against God], which is punishable by death" in Iran. Ban Ki-moon also said that human rights activists are routinely charged with security offenses for which they are punished severely. He asked Iran to allow a special U.N. envoy to investigate what is happening inside the country. He reported that despite repeated requests since 2005, Iran has not allowed any U.N. envoy to travel to Iran regarding the issue. Sweden has drafted a resolution condemning human rights violation in Iran, which will be put to a vote on March 25.

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali has written a letter to Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei "as a brother" asking him to release the two American hikers, Josh Fattal and Sean Bauer, who have been imprisoned in Iran for nearly two years. The letter was apparently sent on February 2. Iran has accused the hikers of entering Iran illegally, and also charged them with spying. The Associated Press reports that Ali also wrote to Khamenei right before the third hiker who accompanied them, Sarah Shourd, was released.

Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, head of the Expediency Council, issued a statement in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the nationalization of Iran's oil industry, this coming Saturday. He states, "I am sure that the good people of Iran know well that our enemies in Iran and abroad use the policy of 'divide, conquer, and rule,' want to demonstrate that the Islamic Republic is not competent and efficient, put up Islam against republicanism, and through their support for reactionary extremists -- which we are already familiar with through the [Afghan] Taliban -- attribute violence to the Muslims. Iran has a unique position among the Islamic and non-Islamic nations of the world.... Iran should be the number one nation, at least in the region." He also said that Iran was supposed to free itself from the income from oil exports and develop a sustainable national budget that did not rely on that income, but has not achieved this goal.

The Article 10 Commission that oversees political groups has canceled the permit for the Association of Teachers and Scholars of Qom, a pro-reform clerical group that has repeatedly protested what is going on in the nation. The rationale given is that since its founding the association has not selected its central committee, which the Article 10 Commission found "undemocratic." It did not explain how outlawing a political group is "democratic."

Four hundred and sixty-seven people were arrested on Tuesday evening in Tehran, after the traditional celebration of the last Tuesday night of the Iranian year was transformed into demonstrations against the government.

Colonel Ali Karimi, deputy police commander, claimed that they were arrested because they had unlawful explosives. Reports also indicate that one person was killed in Shiraz during the parallel demonstrations there. But Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi averred that "nothing special happened" on the last Tuesday evening of the year.

Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Sistani, the most important Marja taghlid (source of emulation for the masses) in Shia Islam, has condemned the violence in Bahrain and demanded an end to the violent crackdown on its people. The Coordination Council for Islamic Propaganda has called on people to demonstrate after Friday Prayers to protest what is going on in Bahrain. A force of 1,000 troops from Saudi Arabia and another of 500 from the United Arab Emirates have entered Bahrain to help the government control the protesters.

In related news, Iran's ambassador to Bahrain, Mehdi Agha Jafari, was summoned to Tehran as a sign of protest against what is going on in Bahrain and the intervention there by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Earlier, Bahrain, calling Iran's protest "shameless intervention in its internal affairs," summoned home its own ambassador from Tehran.

Hardline cleric and Majles deputy Mohammad Taghi Rabar said Wednesday that the legislature's clerical faction has summoned Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi to explain what Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's chief of staff, is doing holding a celebration of the Iranian new year in Persepolis, as well as inviting King Abdullah II of Jordan to visit Iran. He said that the cost of the celebration is already very high, and the Majles wants to know why it is necessary to hold it, while there are so many poor people. Salehi has written a letter to the secretary-generals of the United Nations, the Conference of Islamic Countries, and the Arab League voicing Iran's concerns about the intervention of foreign countries in Bahrain, which it declares "illegal."

Majles Speaker Ali Larijani said that the administration's violations of the law that governed the country's budget for the year 2008 are very extensive. A report about the violations was read in the Majles today. Larijani said that the report is a "large book" and only a summary of it was read. Reformist deputy Dariush Ghanbari said that 72 percent of the law governing the budget was violated by the government. Another deputy, Mehrdad Lahouti, said that the National Iranian Oil Company also violated the law repeatedly. Iran's production has decreased by 72,000 barrels/day. In addition, close to $11 billion in oil income that should have been directed to the special savings account for foreign currencies has not been deposited.

A group of families of political prisoners had asked Larijani for 18 months to meet with them and help them obtain the release of their children and loved ones. After 18 months, Larijani's office informed them that they could have a meeting, but when the families went to the parliament building, they were told that they should meet with the deputies that represent them in the Majles, not the speaker. They refused to do so, and left without meeting Larijani or anyone else.

Well-known literary figure Mohammad Ali Sepanlou said that he could not receive permits for four of his books to be published. At the same time, the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has refused to issue the permit needed for republication of another collection of Sepanlou's work, The Oral History of Iran's Contemporary Literature. He added that the ministry is apparently willing to reconsider its decision.

Dr. Mohammad Taghi Karroubi, Mehdi Karroubi's second son, reported news of his parents from "a dear cleric" whom he did not name but said is trusted "by both my parents and the ruling group." He said this called him to let him know that he had met with Karroubi and his wife, Fatemeh, the night before and that his parents are both in good heath.

Saman Soleimani Marand, a student activist and head of the Muslim Students Association of Islamic Azad University's Varamin Campus, 20 miles east of Tehran, who was arrested 27 days ago, was released after posting $50,000 bail. Another activist at the school, Fashad Jamali, has also been released, as has Javad Sohankar, a student at Sharif University, who was arrested on February 15. But over a month after the arrest of Sayyed Bagher Oskoee, head of the youth branch of Karroubi's National Trust Party, there is still no news about his whereabouts or conditions. There has been no contact with him, and his family members are gravely concerned. He had repeatedly protested the arrest of university students.

Journalist Mahsa Amrabadi, who is married to the imprisoned journalist Masoud Bastani, has been released from jail. She was arrested on February 20 during the demonstrations in support of the Green Movement's leaders. She was held in solitary confinement. Also released was Ahmad Hakimipour, head of the Coordination Council for Reforms Front, who was arrested on February 14, after the demonstrations called for by Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi. Hakimipour, a veteran of the Iran-Iraq War who has never recovered completely from his wounds, was also a deputy in the Fourth Majles. Journalist Nazanin Khorowani was also released after being imprisoned for four-and-a-half months in Evin Prison's Ward 209, which is controlled by the Ministry of Intelligence. To secure her release, she had to post bail of $600,000.

Many news agencies have reported that an Iranian cargo plane that was flying from Tehran to Syria was forced to land by the Turkish air force. It is speculated that the plane was carrying weapons, or even nuclear material, to Syria. Two F-16 fighters reportedly forced the plane to land in Turkey, so that its cargo could be inspected. In related news, Israel reports that it has seized an Iranian cargo ship on which it discovered at least two C-704 land-to-sea missiles. Israel has accused Iran of intending to convey the missiles to Hamas, the Palestinian group that controls Gaza.

A group dubbing itself the Central Nucleus of the 25 Bahman [February 14] Coalition has called for people to visit the graves of the Green Movement martyrs and pay their respects on Thursday, March 17, the last Thursday of the Iranian year when people traditionally visit the graves of their loved ones. The group has also posted a map of Behesht-e Zahra, Tehran's main cemetery, and marked the location of the martyrs' graves.

Two offshore drilling oil wells in the Persian Gulf that were run by a Romanian company, G.S.P., have been suspended. The Romanian company has said that the work was stopped because it could not reach an agreement with the engineering and construction of offshore installation of Iran, an engineering arm of the National Iranian Oil Company. The drilling well is supposed to be sold to Iran.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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