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Political Prisoner Pardons Go Slow, Mostly Limited to Lesser-Known Figures

29 Aug 2011 08:45Comments

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

1:50 p.m., 8 Shahrivar/August 30 Los Angeles real estate developer and philanthropist Ezat Delijani, who emigrated from Iran during the 1979 Revolution, passed away over the weekend at the age of 83. "He has done so much" for the city, Councilman Jose Huizar told the Los Angeles Times:

"People like Mr. Delijani are rare nowadays. You could shake his hand and that's all you needed."

In 1982, then-Mayor Tom Bradley asked Delijani to buy the Los Angeles Theatre, which was scheduled to be demolished. It was one of a number of historic but timeworn movie palaces that lined Broadway.

Delijani went on to buy three more Broadway movie houses: the Palace, State and Tower theaters.

Several years ago, he began working with Huizar and business leaders on a campaign to revitalize the Broadway corridor. In June, the Palace Theatre reopened with a showing of "Sunset Boulevard" after a $1-million restoration.

According to Linda Dishman, executive director of the Los Angeles Conservancy, "He wanted these movie palaces to survive for future generations to enjoy, and he fostered this vision among his family, who now carries on his tradition of stewardship."

Through his Delson Investment Company, Delijani was also instrumental in the growth of downtown Los Angeles's jewelry and garment districts. A former president of the Iranian American Jewish Federation, his memorial service will be held Wednesday at Temple Beth El in West Hollywood.

3:20 a.m., 8 Shahrivar/August 30 Contesting the widely held belief that social networking was an essential element in the Egyptian rebellion earlier this year (and, by extension, other recent popular uprisings, including the June 2009 postelection protests in Iran), Navid Hassanpour, a graduate student at Yale University, argues in a new paper that "[f]ull connectivity in a social network sometimes can hinder collective action." As the New York Times reports,

His question was, how smart was the decision by the government of President Hosni Mubarak to completely shut down the Internet and cellphone service on Jan. 28, in the middle of the crucial protests in Tahrir Square? [...]

Mr. Hassanpour used press accounts of outbreaks of unrest in Egypt to show that after Jan. 28, the protests became more spread around Cairo and the country. There were not necessarily more protesters, but the movement spread to more parts of the population. [...]

"The disruption of cellphone coverage and Internet on the 28th exacerbated the unrest in at least three major ways," he writes. "It implicated many apolitical citizens unaware of or uninterested in the unrest; it forced more face-to-face communication, i.e., more physical presence in streets; and finally it effectively decentralized the rebellion on the 28th through new hybrid communication tactics, producing a quagmire much harder to control and repress than one massive gathering in Tahrir."

In an interview, he described "the strange darkness" that takes place in a society deprived of media outlets. "We become more normal when we actually know what is going on -- we are more unpredictable when we don't -- on a mass scale that has interesting implications," he said.

Hassanpour's paper, "Media Disruption Exacerbates Revolutionary Unrest: Evidence from Mubarak's Natural Experiment," is available for download here, via the Social Science Research Network.

2:00 a.m., 8 Shahrivar/August 30 CBS News reports that

a Dutch company issued a digital certificate for Google.com to someone other than Google, who may be using it to try to re-direct traffic of users based in Iran. [...]

The situation is similar to one that happened in March in which spoofed certificates were found involving Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and other major sites and they were traced back to Iran. In that case, the fraudulent digital certificates were acquired through reseller partners of certificate authority Comodo.

MiladAsadiFile.jpg8:45 a.m., 7 Shahrivar/August 29 Our columnist Muhammad Sahimi compiled the following news items and commentary:
Two days after the announcement by Tehran Prosecutor-General Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi that 70 political prisoners would be released by Saturday evening, the number of those who have been set free is still much lower. In addition, as reported by Tehran Bureau, no well-known political figures or journalists are among those that have been or are scheduled to be released. Those whose incarceration will continue include journalists Dr. Ahmad Zeidabadi, Bahman Ahmadi Amouei, Masoud Bastani, Isa Saharkhiz, Mohammad Davari, Mehdi Mahmoudian, and Keyvan Samimi; university activists Abdollah Momeni, Bahareh Hedayat, Mahdieh Golroo, and Majid Tavakoli; attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh; reformist leaders Dr. Mohsen Mirdamadi, Dr. Abdollah Ramazanzadeh, Mostafa Tajzadeh, Behzad Nabavi, and Davood Soleimani; nationalist-religious figures Amir Khosrow Dalirsani and Heshmatollah Tabarzadi; and notable religious researcher Ahmad Ghabel. Even 66-year-old Abolfazl Ghadiani, Iran's oldest political prisoner, who has been severely ill, does not appear to be among those who will be released. With very few exceptions, those being set free are little known.

The most notable figures among the released political prisoners are Milad Asadi (pictured at left) and Dr. Arash Alaei (pictured teaching on the homepage; photo © Physicians For Human Rights). Asadi is a member of the central committee of the Office for Consolidation of Unity, the most important university student organization, and an electrical engineering student at Tehran's Khajeh Nasir Toosi University. Alaei and his brother Dr. Kamiar Alaei are both physicians and experts on HIV/AIDS. They were detained in June 2008 and accused of being linked to the CIA. Arash Alaei received a six-year jail sentence, while his brother was sentenced to three years.

In a sense, if a limited number of political prisoners are to be released, it may perhaps be better if the lesser-known ones are freed, because they receive the least amount of attention, or none at all, from domestic activists, the supporters of the Green Movement, and international human rights organizations. Kaleme, the website that reflects the views of Mir Hossein Mousavi, has always emphasized publicizing the plight of such prisoners.

Taamol News, a website often critical of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, claims that the daily Iran, which is published by IRNA, the official state news agency, has 43 journalists who oppose the "perverted group," code name for Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, the president's chief of staff and close confidant, and his inner circle. IRNA and Iran are headed by Ali Akbar Javanfekr, an ardent supporter of Ahmadinejad.

In its Sunday issue, Javan, the daily mouthpiece of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, accused the "perverted current" of planning to undermine the country's economic development plans to improve their odds of success in the Majles elections that will be held next March 2. According to Javan, senior figures within the "perverted current" have said that if their candidates confront difficulties in the vetting by the Guardian Council, "they will take the important development plans hostage and cause them to fail." Javan also said that the government will try to distribute dividends for the so-called "justice shares," in order to make itself popular close to the elections. As Tehran Bureau has reported, this is not the first time that the Revolutionary Guards have warned about the goals of the "perverted group" or "current."

In related news, cleric Mohsen Fouladi, who oversees coordination of the three branches of the political system and is thought to be close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned that beginning in late September, "There will be a huge fetneh [sedition], 70 percent of which will be in the mass media." He implicitly threatened Mashaei, saying, "He does not have the stature to stand against the system" and suggesting that he will be easily eliminated if necessary.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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