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Tehran Prosecutor Confirms Hikers' Sentences

20 Aug 2011 17:25Comments

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. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

Iran Daylight Time (IRDT), GMT+4:30

3:30 p.m. 30 Mordad/August 21 The U.S. hikers' sentences have been confirmed by Tehran's prosecutor. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that she was "deeply disappointed" that Iran has convicted Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal and sentenced them to eight years of imprisonment. "We continue to call and work for their immediate release," she said. "It is time for them to return home and be reunited with their families." A statement released by the families of the two men declared, "Of the 751 days of Shane and Josh's imprisonment, yesterday and today have been the most difficult for our families. Shane and Josh are innocent and have never posed any threat to the Islamic Republic of Iran, its government or its people."

11:00 p.m. 29 Mordad/August 20 From our columnist Muhammad Sahimi:

The state-run Shabakeh Khabar news network has reported that American hikers Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, both 29, have been sentenced to eight years of incarceration -- three years for illegally crossing into Iranian territory from Iraq and five years for "working for the United States intelligence agency." Bauer and Fattal (seen in an archive photo on the homepage) have already been in prison in Iran for more than two years. Shabakeh Khabar also said that the case of the third hiker, Sarah Shroud, who was released on a $500,000 bail and returned to the United States, was apparently still open. No sentence for her was divulged.

As reported by Tehran Bureau, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said in early August that because of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, "the trial of the two American defendants who were detained for the crime of illegally entering Iran will finally lead to their freedom." Many others had expressed the same sentiment after the trial of the two took place behind closed doors and without a jury on July 31. But the hardliners in the judiciary and in the Revolutionary Court who put the two hikers on trial, have apparently, for now, blocked their release.

The news, also reported by the mass media in Iran, has not yet been officially confirmed. Khabar Online, the website close to Majles Speaker Ali Larijani, which also reported on the verdict, quoted Mahmoud Shafiei, the attorney who represents the two Americans, as saying that he has not received any official or even unofficial note from the judiciary regarding his clients. The verdict can be appealed no later than 20 days after the official announcement of the verdict.


New Group Roils Regime; Mousavi Health Rumors; A Watermelon 'Conspiracy'?

MahsouliUmbrella.jpg5:15 p.m., 28 Mordad/August 19 Our columnist Muhammad Sahimi compiled the following news items and commentary:
As reported by Tehran Bureau, a group of hardline supporters of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who supposedly consider him ideologically distinct from his controversial chief of staff and close confidant Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, have formed a new group called Jebheh Paaydaari-ye Enghelab-e Eslami (Front for Durability of the Islamic Revolution). "Billionaire Minister" Sadegh Mahsouli (pictured in gray coat under umbrella) -- who served as both minister of the interior and of cooperatives and social security in the Ahmadinejad administration -- is the Front's main financial backer. Its members include hardline figures such as former Ministry of Intelligence official Ruhollah Hosseinian and Majles deputies Mehdi Koochakzadeh and Hamid Rasaei. Mohammad Taghi Mesabah Yazdi, the reactionary cleric and former spiritual adviser to Ahmadinejad, seems to be the titular head of the Front. To work with the 7+8 Committee, established by the hardliners and conservatives to coordinate unity efforts for the upcoming Majles elections, the Front has set conditions that include giving Mahsouli a seat on the committee, and removing the representatives of Majles Speaker Ali Larijani and Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf. Both conditions have been rejected.

This has pitted Mesbah Yazdi against Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani, chairman of the Assembly of Experts and spiritual adviser to the 7+8 Committee. Mahdavi Kani has been preaching unity among the principlists -- as the hardline fundamentalists are known -- saying that it is what Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wants and that the formation of the Front is disruptive. Majles deputy Asadollah Badamchian, an influential member of the Islamic Coalition Party, which is allied with the 7+8 Committee, said that if the Front does not work with the committee, "they will be hurt [politically]." He added, "Mahdavi Kani was trusted by the Imam [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini], and is trusted by the Supreme Leader and the people."

There has also been much discussion about whether there is any link between the Front and Mashaei. Conservative Majles deputy Hamid Reza Katouzian said that the Front is the same as Raayeheh-e Khosh-e Khedmat (RKK, or the Sweet Scent of Service), a pro-Ahmadinejad group that was active from 2006 to 2009. Katouzian added that Mashaei was the leader of the RKK and claimed that the behind-the-scenes leaders of the Front are Mashaei and Vice President for Executive Affairs Hamid Baghaei, another close and controversial Ahmadinejad aide.

Badamchian, however, said that the Front has no link with Mashaei and Baghaei. He added that the two, together with Mohammad Reza Rahimi, Ahmadinejad's first vice president, reject the Front, which regards them as central members of the "perverted group" -- the hardliners' code name for Mashaei and his inner circle.

Mohsen Yahyavi, member of the conservative Islamic Society of Engineers, recommended that the Front "not overestimate their strength and avoid making mistakes, so that they can move along with the principlists." Habibollah Bourbour, deputy leader and spokesman for the hardline group Jameiyat-e Vafaadaaraan-e Enghelab-e Eslami (Association of Islamic Revolution Loyalists), said that the Front aims to eliminate important members of the 7+8 Committee and that the Front "is fed by the perverted group."

Majles deputy Ali Motahari also criticized the Front, likening it to Masjed-e Zarrar -- the Zarrar mosque that was built by opponents of the Prophet and destroyed on his order. "I doubt that they have any strong social base," he added. "Formation of the Front only deepens the rift between the principlists."

Another sign of the deep rift within the ranks of the hardliners and conservatives emerged after Gholamali Haddad Adel, former Majles speaker and father-in-law of Khamenei's son Mojtaba, said a few days ago that the principlists should be united because that is what Khamenei wants (a comment virtually identical to Mahdavi Kani's). That has provoked considerable negative reactions among the traditional conservatives. Majles deputy Hassan Ghafouri Fard, a member of the Islamic Society of Engineers and Islamic Coalition Party, said, "It is not in [our] interest to use Khamenei['s prestige], because he is the leader of all Iranians [regardless of their political leanings]." Mohammad Nabi Habibi, secretary-general of the Islamic Coalition Party, also warned against using Khamenei in the political arguments between various conservative factions.

On Tuesday, Mehdi Mohammadi, a member of the Kayhan editorial board, spoke at the weekly meeting of Ansaar-e Hezbollah and criticized Ahmadinejad and the "perverted group." Explaining why Ahmadinejad failed to shift anything in his favor by staying home for 11 days during his confrontation with Khamenei over the ouster and reinstatement of Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi, Mohammadi said,

The "perverted group" isolated the government from the elite and the urban middle class. According to Mashaei's theory, Mr. Ahmadinejad did not see any value in having any relations with the two groups, and had said we do not need them.

In the first week after the [2009] election, we were searching for someone to defend Ahmadinejad, but could not find anyone.

Undoubtedly, due to his trust in this dangerous theory, Ahmadinejad had no base of support among the nongovernmental elite to defend him.

Many of the things that Ahmadinejad did during his first administration resulted only in creating a rift with the Hezbollah [the hardliners].

The most important plan of the "perverted group" is to negotiate with the United States. They believe that if they can initiate negotiations, they will become popular, because the people want good relations with the U.S.

The most important thing that the "perverted group" is trying to do is negate principlism. In the second stage, they want to make fundamental changes in the power structure. They believe that the changes must be such that they would give maximum freedom [of action] to Ahmadinejad. To achieve these goals, they want to improve people's livelihood and economic state. They are trying to tell the people that they want to work for them, but the current power structure does not allow them to.

In the cultural arena, the most important goal is liberalizing the social sphere and setting aside the values of the Islamic Revolution.

When Ahmadinejad stayed home [for 11 days], he was trying to send three messages. One was to the middle class that voted for Mir Hossein [Mousavi], that "if you are looking for someone to stand against this nezaam [the system, or the state], you will not be able to find anyone better than me." The second message was to the 25 million who voted for Ahmadinejad, that "we want to work for you, but they [Khamenei's faction] do not let us." The third message was to foreign governments [the U.S. and its allies], that "We are the ones who make the decisions in Iran; it is rue that we follow others."

They [Ahmadinejad's supporters] thought that people would come out on the streets to support him [when he stayed home], but that did not happen. Another reason for the failure was that the top people in the "perverted group" were under tremendous pressure by security forces. Many people were insisting that Ahmadinejad should be impeached and fired, but that would have hurt principlism.

Although it is now over two years since the 2009 fetneh [sedition, the hardliners' epithet for the Green Movement], but we are still grappling with it. The first phase of the fetneh began on June 12, 2009, and ended on December 29, 2009. The main players were the reformists, Mr. Hashemi [Rafsanjani], and their foreign supporters. The second phase began on December 29, 2009, and ended with the end of Ahmadinejad's sit-in at home. The main player was the "perverted group." We are now in the third phase, which will continue until the presidential election of 2013.

There have been reports that ever since Ahmadinejad failed to dismiss Moslehi, he has been trying to create a parallel intelligence apparatus based in his own office. The president's office has denied the claims. But Jahan News, the website published by hardline Majles deputy Ali Reza Zakani, reports that the new intelligence unit will operate under the vice president for social affairs, and that it will be led by a "Mr. S."


The website Serat News, reportedly published by associates of Hossein Shariatmadari, the hardline managing editor of Kayhan, reported that Mir Hossein Mousavi is severely ill. Kaleme, the website that publishes Mousavi's views, quickly denied the report. It explains that because Mousavi has lost a lot of weight, he was taken to a hospital and underwent a complete medical checkup, but was found to be in good health. But security agents have not allowed an independent doctor to examine him. According to Kaleme, Mousavi has been fasting for Ramadan. Dr. Ardeshir Amir Arjomand, Mousavi's senior adviser, who is in Europe, also denied the report, but said that people close to Mousavi are concerned about such rumors.

The question is, Why do the hardliners spread such baseless stories? One reason to be worried about these sorts of rumors is that if Mousavi is murdered, it can be claimed that he was already in poor health.


WatermelonAugustFull.jpgAlef, the website published by conservative Majles deputy Ahmad Tavakoli, declared that young people getting together to eat watermelons or play water-gun games is a "cultural conspiracy" and a "threat to national security." In its editorial, Alef condemned the use of Facebook to organize such games, criticized the way the mass media have reported on the issue, and demanded that officials find a way to confront the problem.

The weekly Yaa Lasaaraat, mouthpiece of the hardline vigilante group Ansaar-e Hezbollah, questioned Ahmadinejad's position concerning the Iran daily's controversial special section on women and hejab. According to Yaa Lasaaraat, if Ahmadinejad agrees with its contents, he need do nothing. But if he does not, he should "(1) officially apologize; (2) fire those who were involved in publishing that section, particularly Ali Akbar Javanfekr [head of IRNA, the official state news agency, which publishes Iran, and an ardent Ahmadinejad supporter]; and (3) do anything else that could prevent those who voted for him [in 2009] from taking their votes back."

In a meeting with a group of veterans of the Iran-Iraq War, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani criticized the Ahmadinejad administration. After praising the veterans, Rafsanjani said, "Given the huge earnings that we have had over the past several years from exporting oil, we should not be witnessing economic difficulties for various [social] strata, particularly for injured veterans, nonpayment of entitlements, and incomplete implementation of the laws governing care for the veterans." He also declared, "The ultimate fate of all dictators is Saddam Hussein's fate."

Khamenei also criticized the state of the economy. In a meeting with a group of people from various business sectors, the ayatollah said that, while he believes that the country has progressed economically, the 8 percent annual growth that is necessary to keep unemployment at current levels has not been achieved. He added that the goal of the sanctions imposed by the West is to paralyze the Iranian economy.

Cleric Gholam Reza Mesbahi Moghaddam, member of the Majles Commission on Economic Affairs, said that the government is having problems meeting its obligation to distribute $4.5 billion in cash handouts in lieu of subsidies that have been eliminated. He added that it will be impossible to achieve the goal by the end of the current Iranian year (March 20, 2012) and that the government will be able to dole out $3 billion at most.

A report prepared by the Majles's research center to be read in a session of parliament indicates that the Ahmadinejad administration has not carried out two-thirds of the country's fourth five-year development plan. While, for example, the goal was to reduce the unemployment rate to 8.2 percent by the end of its fourth year, only 2,532,000 new jobs have been created, one million less than the target. While the goal was to increase employment in the agriculture sector, it has actually decreased by 100,000 annually. While the goal was to reach an annual economic growth of 8 percent, it has steadily decreased. The growth rate was 6.9 percent in 2005, 6.7 in 2006, 1.3 in 2008, and 3.9 in 2009. Since then, no statistics have been made available. The goal for the oil sector was an annual growth rate of 3 percent, but it was 0.3 in 2005, and by 2008 the sector had contracted by 3 percent. Practically, every important indicator of economic activity indicates that the economy is not anywhere near the goals set by the plan, which has been extended by two years.

Farhad Parvaresh, chief executive officer of IranAir, which has been losing money, said in an interview with the Financial Times of London that the airline will be privatized within the next two months and sold for $1.5 billion. IranAir, which employs 15,000 people, has survived due to aid provided by the government. Parvaresh said that after IranAir is privatized, the United States will not have any excuse to continue sanctioning the airline.

Iran's Center for Statistics declared that the rate of inflation over the 12 months that ended July 22 (the last day of the Iranian month of Tir) was 19.6 percent, whereas Mahmoud Bahmani, governor of the Central Bank, said the rate was 15.4 percent. According to the Center, the rate of unemployment over the same period was 13.2 percent.

Judiciary chief Sadegh Larijani claimed that only one person was killed in the aftermath of the June 2009 presidential election. Many credible sources, including human rights activists within Iran, have put the number at or near 110, as recounted by Tehran Bureau. The government itself has admitted that at least three young people were murdered in the Kahrizak detention center on the southern edge of Tehran. At the same time, Larijani ordered all prisons to grant furloughs of up to 15 days to all incarcerated persons, except the political prisoners.

Ten people commit suicide in Iran every day, causing considerable concern among social scientists and others. Suicide is considered a grave sin by Islam. Dr. Mohammad Zahedi Asl, a professor of social science at Allameh Tabatabaei University in Tehran, said that the state of the economy, increasing unemployment, the difficulties in getting married and having a family, and other problems cause considerable psychological pressure on Iranian youth that leads them to suicide.

Every six hours, another Iranian contracts AIDS. Dr. Ahmad Ali Naghi said that the official statistics indicate that 22,000 people have contracted AIDS in the country, but research indicates that the true number may be close to 100,000. That figure is based on the methods that the World Health Organization uses to estimate the number of people with the disease.

Iran has published a list of the 40 most influential women in Iran. Many of them are conservative figures, such as Fatemeh Rajabi, said to be publisher of the hardline website Raja News; Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi, minister of health and wife of Hossein Shariatmadari; Nasrin Soltankhah, vice president for scientific affairs; Fatemeh Bodaghi, vice president for legal affairs; and Azamolsadat Farahi, Ahmadinejad's wife. The list also includes actresses Amhnaz Afshar, Hadiyeh Tehrani, and Taraneh Alidoosti.

Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi visited Moscow to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and discuss both relations between the two countries and Iran's nuclear program. Lavrov said on Wednesday that he hoped that talks between the global powers and Iran on its nuclear program would resume soon on the basis of a Russian proposal. Not much is known about Moscow's proposal, but Salehi praised the document for its "step-by-step" approach to the dispute between Iran and the Western powers. He added that the commitments by both sides must be simultaneous.According to Lavrov, the Bushehr nuclear plant will start operations very soon.

Sergei Ryabkov, Russian's deputy foreign minister, criticized both Iran and the West for how they have addressed the issue of the Iranian nuclear program: "Moscow does not see any real efforts by both Iran and the 5+1 group -- the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany -- to set aside their extreme demands." Although Russia believes that the chances for a breakthrough are minimal, he said, it will continue its efforts at mediation.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr said that if diplomatic relations between Cairo and Tehran are to expand, Iran must not interfere in Egypt's internal affairs and the security of the Persian Gulf, which he linked with Egypt's security, must be preserved (in other words, Iran must not make any threats against the Persian Gulf countries).

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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