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Rafsanjani Loses Assembly of Experts Chair; Report: Mousavis Still in Home

09 Mar 2011 01:00Comments

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

Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani at the meeting of the Assembly of Experts.

1 a.m./March 9 Our columnist Muhammad Sahimi compiled the following news items and commentary:

The ninth official meeting of the Assembly of Experts, the constitutional body that appoints the Supreme Leader and can theoretically sack him, was held Tuesday. For the past several weeks, the hardliners had been attacking Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who was the head of the assembly, declaring that he was no longer qualified to lead it because he had refused to condemn the leaders of the Green Movement and supported some of the movement's demands in his sermon during the Friday Prayers of July 17, 2009. They had been advocating Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani, 79, the conservative head of the Society of Militant Clergy, and former prime minister and minister of interior, replace him as assembly chairman. Kani initially said that due to illness he would not run, but two days ago it was announced that he had changed his mind. In turn, Rafsanjani said that, due to his decades-old friendship with Kani, he would not stand for reelection if Kani decided to run.

At Tuesday's meeting, Kani was elected as the new head of the Assembly of Experts, receiving 63 of the 80 votes that were cast (the assembly has 84 members). In his acceptance speech, Kani said that different factions must learn to tolerate each other when they differ about important issues. He added that he felt that it was his religious duty to run, and he asked Rafsanjani to assist him in his new role.

In a related development, the Assembly of Experts did not send the traditional invitation to Ayatollah Ali Mohammad Dastgheib, the popular, moderate cleric who represents the province of Fars in the assembly. Dastgheib, a supporter of the Green Movement, is the only assembly member who had criticized the violent crackdown on the supporters of the Green Movement, and he had called on the assembly to do what it is supposed to do, namely, monitor Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's performance as Supreme Leader.

Kalemeh, the website that is close to Mir Hossein Mousavi, reports that according to new information, Mousavi and his wife, Dr. Zahra Rahnavard, remain at home under house arrest. It apologized for its previous report that indicated that the couple are held in Heshmatieh garrison. It added that, despite the new information, nothing is known about them. At the same time, members of Mehdi Karroubi's family said today that they still do not have any information about Karroubi and his wife, Fatemeh.

The Council of Nationalist-Religious Activists issued a statement declaring that the arrest of Mousavi and Karroubi and their wives is a threat to the nation and demanding their immediate release. It said that their arrest is unlawful and against Articles 22, 33, 36, 37, and 39 of the Constitution, which protect the rights of the citizens.

Various reports indicate that police and security forces have been deployed extensively in many parts of Tehran and Mashhad. Reports indicate that tear gas was used to disperse the people who gathered in some parts of the capital. Women's groups, with the support of the Greens, had called for gatherings Tuesday, International Women's Day.

Milad Fadaei Asl, a university activist and student of mining engineering at Islamic Azad University in Tehran, was arrested Tuesday. It appears that he was detained by Basij forces and taken to an unknown location. Emruz, the website close to the Organization of Islamic Revolution Mojahedin, reports that many people were arrested in Tehran over the course of the day. RAHANA, the news agency of Iranian human rights activists, similarly reports that a large number of women and girls were arrested in the capital.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast confirmed a BBC report that a group of high officials of the Islamic Republic have applied for visas to travel to the United States. According to the British news service, the group includes senior advisers to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, several people who work in his office, and possibly Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, Ahmadinejad's chief of staff and his close relative and adviser. The group is supposed to take part in the ceremony at the United Nations marking the anniversary of Earth Day. Quoting a senior U.S. State Department official, the BBC says that the group may also seek to parley with American officials to improve relations between the two countries.

Ali Bagheri, member of the central committee of the Organization of Islamic Revolution Mojahedin, a leading reformist group that has been outlawed by the hardliners, was released from detention. Arrested on February 14, the day of demonstrations called for by Mousavi and Karroubi, he was set free after posting bail of $50,000. Bagheri was deputy interior minister for political affairs during the administration of former president Mohammad Khatami.

Loghman Ghadiri, a well-known university activist and graduate student of sociology at Shiraz University, was arrested Tuesday. He was supposed to defend his masters' thesis tomorrow on Wednesday, but had been threatened by the university security division that he would be prevented from doing so. Ghadiri was also arrested in 2008 and expelled from the university for one semester.

All activities of the Muslim Student Association of Sharif University of Technology have been banned by the school. All the space that had been given to the association has been taken back. The university has promised the association that elections will be held soon to elect a new leadership council, after which it can resume its activities.

Hossein Taeb, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' intelligence unit and the commander of the Basij during the violent crackdown on the peaceful demonstrations that followed the 2009 presidential election, said that the country is facing a difficult period due to economic problems including the imposition of sanctions. He also confirmed for the first time the contents of a letter that Sadegh Larijani had been reported as sending to Khamenei, in which the judiciary chief complained about the interventions of the ayatollah's staff in the judiciary's affairs, requested that the courts for political trials be removed from his jurisdiction, and asked that his resignation be accepted if his wishes could not be met.

After criticizing the Larijani brothers, but saying that they are necessary for the Revolution, Taeb continued, "This letter that was attributed to Ayatollah [Sadegh] Larijani was an indication of their lack of caution. The letter was fake, and the Greens admitted that it was fake, which created fissures among them. But it was what he had said [orally to Khamenei] and apparently someone had written it down and had sent it to the websites that support the leaders of the sedition."

Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, referring to the Green Movement, claimed, "The sedition has been transformed to a counterrevolution, and they have entered the toppling phase" of their struggle. "Iran is not Egypt and Tunisia that can be shaken with some noise," he declared.

Dolatabadi also said today that two people who verbally assaulted Rafsanjani's family, including his daughter Faezeh Hashemi, have been arrested. He said that Rafsanjani's family had filed a lawsuit. A case has been drawn up against the two, according to Dolatabadi, which will be sent soon to the judiciary.

The Majles has approved a modification of the law that governs the election for its deputies. According to the new law, a candidate for the Majles must have at least a masters' degree, and five years of experience either as a manager, on work in the education, research, law, or political areas, or has already been a Majles deputy for at least four years. This will severely limit the number of potential candidates, and it was even opposed by many in the Majles.

Mohammad Hossein Majles Ara, the Ministry of Higher Education officer who oversees graduate students, said today that his ministry will not allow any university Iranian student studying abroad to choose Iran as a subject of a thesis at any level. He said that this includes both those students that have received scholarship from the government and those who pay for their own education. He did not specify how his ministry intends to enforce the ban.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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