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'BBC Filmmakers' Arrested after Network Airs Doc on Supreme Leader

19 Sep 2011 21:55Comments

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

KarimSadjadpour.jpg1:15 a.m., 29 Shahrivar/September 20 For the Washington Post, Karim Sadjadpour (pictured) of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace poses 16 human rights questions for Ahmadinejad on the occasion of his visit to New York to address the U.N. General Assembly. Here's a selection of four:
There is evidence that your chief adviser, [Esfandiar] Rahim Mashai, helped secure loans for the leading suspect in a $2.6 billion bank fraud case, the largest embezzlement scandal in Iranian history. You came to office vowing to "cut off the hands" of the corrupt; how will you deal with Mashai? [...]

Somayeh Tohidlou, a 32-year-old female sociology PhD student, recently received 50 lashes in prison for having "insulted" you by campaigning for Mousavi in 2009. Do you believe that men lashing women for their political views is an appropriate form of punishment?

You said last September that "freedom is a divine right." Does that apply to Iran's Bahais, who are persecuted for practicing their faith, discriminated against in the workplace and imprisoned for attempting to educate their youth, who have been barred from university? [...]

Ali Vakili Rad, who was convicted by the French in 1991 for the brutal stabbing death of 77-year-old Iranian democracy activist Shapour Bakhtiar in Paris, was given an official hero's welcome at the Tehran airport upon his release from prison last year. Why does your government glorify assassins?

The Associated Press reports that an intelligence summary prepared by a member nation of the International Atomic Energy Agency indicates that a colleague of Iranian nuclear scientist Darioush Rezaeinejad, who was assassinated in July, is under investigation for leaking information that led to the killing.

HosseiniAndHand.jpg9:55 p.m., 28 Shahrivar/September 19 Our columnist Muhammad Sahimi compiled the following news items and commentary:
Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Seyyed Mohammad Hosseini (pictured) told reporters that a group of documentary filmmakers have been arrested and charged with working for the BBC. He charged the British broadcaster with having played a major role in directing and provoking the demonstrations after the June 2009 election, and of trying in general to create unrest in Iran. Hosseini said the Ministry of Intelligence will provide more information about the case.

[According to the New York Times, "The BBC denied that the six defendants -- five men and woman -- were employees. Rather, the BBC said it had purchased the broadcast rights to the work of the six, described by the BBC as independent filmmakers whose films had been screened in festivals and other international venues.... Iranians are prohibited from working for any nongovernment radio and television networks that broadcast in Farsi."]

This new confrontation with the BBC may be in response to a documentary its Persian Service broadcast on Saturday about Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's rise to power and his style of rule. It included interviews with people who knew him who now live outside Iran, while the people who have been accused of working with the network are all still in the country. The documentary focused on Khamenei's suppression of the press and opposition political groups and his facilitation of the military's expanding role in state affairs. It also included criticism of Khamenei from the late Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri and Sheikh Ali Tehran, the Supreme Leader's brother-in-law. [According to the New York Times, "The BBC said its documentary was an in-house production and that 'none of the six film makers had been involved with it.'" Relying on opposition websites, the Guardian gave the names of the six as Naser Saffarian, Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, Hadi Afarideh, Mohsen Shahrnazdar, Katayoun Shahabi, and Mehrdad Zahedian.]

Fars New Agency reported that as early as 2009 the management of Bank Saderat was warned about granting a line of credit to the Amir Mansoor Aria Investment Group, a central player in the multibillion-dollar embezzlement case that has created a political storm in the country. Fars reported that the bank's management was cautioned that the line of credit would help the investment group to "displace its debts" -- that is, to use one credit line to pay the creditors of another, tantamount to a Ponzi scheme.

Majles Speaker Ali Larijani said during a television appearance that the embezzlement was not committed by low-level officials. He added that the investigation of the case and eventual prosecution of the culprits have nothing to do with the Majles elections to be held next March and that, in contrast to what some have been said, the investigation is not intended as a tool to prevent Ahmadinejad's supporters from winning the election.

The Majles held a closed session on Sunday morning to investigate the embezzlement of nearly $3 billion from Iran's banking system. Mostafa Pour Mohammadi, head of the National Organization for Inspection, and Mahmoud Bahmani, governor of the Central Bank, appeared before the deputies to explain what happened and answer their questions.

Bahmani told Mehr News Agency that there is no evidence that part of the embezzled funds have been transferred outside Iran, contradicting many previous reports that about $2 billion has been sent abroad. He claimed that the Central Bank had discovered the embezzlement, but kept quiet about it so that the culprits will not be suspicious and take preventive actions.


Thailand has announced that it will no longer deliver fuel to Iranian passenger airliners. Announcing the news, Mohammad Reza Saberi, member of the Majles Commission on Development, said that service to Bangkok must be canceled, because Iranian airliners must now stop in India to receive fuel.

Elsevier, a major Dutch-based publisher of books and science journals, has cut off access to its publications by the Shahid Beheshti and Malek-e Ashtar Universities in Tehran. The latter is controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, while the former has been accused of participating in Iran's nuclear program.

Davood Ahmadinejad, the older brother of the president and a Revolutionary Guard officer, said, "We have separated our ways from those who have deviated from the path of Velaayat-e Faghih [guardianship of the Islamic jurist, represented by Khamenei], even if it is our brother [who has done so]." Speaking to a group of Basij militia in Ghaem Shahr in Manzandaran province, the older Ahmadinejad said, "If our revolution has reached the current point, it is due to our nation knowing what its duties are. If some people, due to their arrogance and pride do what the Khavaarej [a group of supporters of Imam Ali who rebelled against him] did, they are no longer with us."

Kayhan, the hardline daily, claimed that Ahmadinejad's inner circle has been involved in selling Iranian antiquities abroad. Kayhan named Azadeh Kiani as the main culprit who, as Tehran Bureau has reported, has been a tutor to Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, Ahmadinejad's chief of staff and close confidant. Neda-ye Enghelab, a hardline website, claimed that Kiani has been arrested and "made some confessions" regarding the issue.

Mohammad Dehghani, a member of the Majles leadership, declared of the Ahmadinejad administration, "We have never had so much corruption in the executive branch." Without naming the president, Dehghani added that his team is corrupted both culturally and politically, and is willing to commit any type of vice.

The Norwegian oil company Statoilhydro has terminated all of its activities in Iran. Because it left some contracts incomplete, it has agreed to pay Iran compensation. Statoilhydro, together with Russia's largest oil company, Lukoil, discovered important oil reserves in Anaran, near Ilam, on the border with Iraq. It also participated in the development of the South Pars field in the Persian Gulf, the world's largest natural gas field.

During September 16-18, 1982, Sabra and Shatila, two Palestinian camps on the outskirts of Beirut, were attacked by Christian Lebanese Phalangists. Close to 3,000 people were massacred, while the camps were surrounded by the Israeli forces that had reached Beirut after attacking Lebanon. It was just reported after 29 years that there were 21 Iranians among the victims of the massacre.

Dr. Ghasem Sholeh Sadi, a deputy during the Third and Fourth Majles and a critic of Khamenei, was put on trial on Saturday. Incarcerated since April 3, he is charged with "insulting" Khamenei. He has been reported to be in very poor health.

Prominent reformist Feyzollah Arabsorkhi, who was suddenly released from prison last week, was arrested. It is still not clear why he was released, and why he was arrested again. Handed a six-year prison sentence, he had emphasized that incarcerating him would not lead him to change his views.

Journalist Mohammad Davari, who was the editor of Saham News, the website that reflects Mehdi Karroubi's views, has written a letter from prison in which he declares, "I will never ask for clemency. The unjust violators must ask for forgiveness." Davari was arrested 730 days ago, and has never been given a furlough. He played a leading role in publicizing the crimes that occurred in the Kahrizak detention center on Tehran's southern edge in the aftermath of the June 2009 presidential election, in which at least four young people were murdered.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned Iran "not to spoil" the Syrian leadership, whose security forces have been cracking down on protesters since mid-March, the Turkish daily Hurriyet reported. Erdogan told the daily, "I cannot say there has been tension with Iran but we warned them that 'the Assad administration is getting spoiled with your encouragement,'" and that he had discussed the matter with Ahmadinejad. "Later he sent an envoy. We talked with him too. There has been a change in their approach," Erdogan said. He added that he would dispatch Turkey's intelligence chief, Hakan Fidan, to Iran to discuss the developments in Syria, and that he may meet with Ahmadinejad on the sidelines of the annual United Nations General Assembly meetings this week.

The weekly 9 Dey, published by hardline cleric and Majles deputy Hamid Rasaei, meanwhile claimed that "a senior Iranian official has warned Turkey" about Syria. According to 9 Dey, Erdogan "was shocked" when he received the message from the Iranian envoy. Ayandeh, a website that is close to Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, responded that the report "is news fabrication by the extremists about a very senior official" -- presumably Khamenei.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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