tehranbureau An independent source of news on Iran and the Iranian diaspora

MP: Bails for US Hikers 'Hilarious'; UN's Ban Warns Ahmadinejad over Speech

25 Sep 2011 03:45Comments

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 Standard Time (IRST), GMT+3:30

N1010345-1746637.jpg N1010345-1746639.jpg

7:30 p.m., 4 Mehr/September 26 The following items were compiled by our columnist Muhammad Sahimi:

Responding to the arrest of eight documentary filmmakers, the Society of Iranian Cinema Guilds issued a statement in which it pleaded for patience on the part of the Iranian film industry, declaring that the arrests were the result of a "great misunderstanding." The eight have been accused of working with the BBC, which recently aired a documentary on the life of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his style of rule that deeply angered the hardliners. In its statement, the society sided with the filmmakers, who merely sold their productions to the network, which used them in the documentary on Khamenei. The society said that there is no law that bars the sale of such productions to foreign television. If there is, the statement asked, why is it then that government agencies work with foreign television networks and sell them their productions in exactly the same way.

There has been no information on the fates of three of the arrested documentary filmmakers, Katayoun Shahabi (producer and distributor), Mohsen Shahrnazdar (director and journalist), and Hadi Afarideh (director). Two others, Naser Saffarian (director) and Mojtaba Mir Tahmaseb (director), have been allowed to contact their families by phone. Three others, Shahnam Bazdar (Director), Mehrdad Zahedian (director), and Mehran Zinatbakhsh (director) are known to be detained in Evin Prison. Hardline media outlets have published a list of several other documentary filmmakers, which may be an indication of their imminent arrest.

A student group at Sharif University of Technology in Tehran has called on students to gather on Tuesday to protest the six-year jail sentence recently handed to Ali Akbar Mohammadzadeh and the illegal arrest of Koohiar Goodarzi. Mohammadzadeh is a student of mechanical engineering at Sharif University and secretary-general of the school's Muslim Students Association. He was arrested the day after the large demonstrations on February 15 that were called for by Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi. Koohiar Goodarzi is a student of aerospace engineering at Sharif and a human rights activist. He served a jail sentence of one year, was released, and then arrested again in August. So far, there has been no information on his whereabouts.

The Office for Consolidation of Unity, the largest umbrella organization for university student groups, issued a statement on the occasion of the new academic year and the opening of the universities for the fall semester. It declared that the university student movement "will protect the fire of search for freedom and enlightenment against the ruling dictatorship" and will continue "to pursue the release from prison of all the jailed students and other political prisoners, and a halt on all the pressures on the universities."

Daneshjoo News published a report on human rights violations focusing on university students in the first six months of the current Iranian year that began on March 21. According to the report, many university students are still incarcerated, a large number have been given "asterisks" by the Ministry of Science, Research, and Technology -- meaning that they cannot continue their studies due to their political and social activities -- many students have been summoned to court or the Ministry of Intelligence, and gender-based segregation of students has been carried out in many schools.

Afshin Shahbazi, a university student activist in Tabriz, in the province of East Azerbaijan, was arrested on Friday and taken to an unknown location. He was previously detained in June.

Four Kurdish university activists who are members of the Democratic League of Students have also been arrested in Sanandaj, the provincial capital of Kurdistan province. They are Mehdi Doagoo, the group's secretary-general; Milad Karimi, deputy secretary general; Sooran Daneshvar, head of the group's coordination council of the League; and Shirzad Karimi.

Fatemeh Adinehvand, wife of Abdollah Momeni, former university student activist and spokesman for the Organization of University Graduates, said that although doctors have recommended that her husband be transferred to a hospital, the prison warden and other officials refuse to allow the transfer. As reported by Tehran Bureau, Momeni's ears have been severely injured as a result of torture in jail. One ear has almost lost its hearing ability, while the other is severely injured. Momeni has been sentenced to four years and 11 months of incarceration.

According to Abbas Sedaghat, who heads the Health Ministry's HIV/AIDS division, 23,125 cases of HIV/AIDS had been identified in the country as of June 20. Of those, 3,045 people are currently living with full-blown AIDS, and 4,311 people have died from it. Nearly 47 percent of all victims are between 25 to 34 years of age. About 70 percent of the cases are due to the sharing of needles among narcotics addicts, 10 percent due to sexual relations, 1.1 percent due to blood transfusion, and 0.8 percent due to the transfer of the virus from mothers to their babies. The cause of the rest cannot be identified.

At the same time, Dr. Majid Abhari, an adviser to the Majles Social Affairs Commission, said that, on average, every day ten people die due to addiction to narcotics.

The medical school of Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran has identified 121 cases of people with cholera, two of whom have died. The medical school is in charge of monitoring medical developments and diseases in about ten million people in and around Tehran.

Payam Jahangir, a distinguished political science scholar, was detained and transferred to Adel Abad Prison near Shiraz. He was arrested on December 5, 2009, and detained for two months. He was then prosecuted in a show trial, convicted of acting against national security and insulting the Supreme Leader, and sentenced to one year of imprisonment. It appears that he was detained to enforce his sentence, even though his attorney has appealed his sentence to the appeal court.

Mohammad Saber Malak Raeisi, who was arrested last year at the age of 17 because agents of the Ministry of Intelligence could not find his older brother, has been sentenced to five years of imprisonment. Malak Raeisi belongs to the Baluch ethnic group in southeastern Iran. He has been exiled to Ardabil in the northwest to serve his sentence, which is about 1,200 miles from his home.

Abbas Lesani, an Azeri human rights activist who was arrested 16 days ago in Ardabil, has been on hunger strike. His wife, Roghieh Lesani, has said that so long as her husband is on hunger strike, the Ministry of Intelligence will not provide any information about him and his health.

Alireza Karimi, deputy minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance for propaganda and public information, said that only two foreign-based satellite televisions have received an official permit to broadcast into Iran, and the rest are moaned (enemy). One, Iranian Channel, has started broadcasting, while the second, Persian TV, has received yet to air.

Russia has returned $167 million to Iran that it had received as a down payment for the S-300 mobile missile system that it had agreed to sell to Iran, but then refused to. Russia has said that it was forced to terminate the sale due to the sanctions that have been imposed on Iran by the U.N. Security Council, but its move has created considerable friction in its relations with Iran.

The Daily Telegraph of London has reported that the Iran Quds Force has stolen several sophisticated weapons from Libya and has transferred them to a base that it has in Sudan, to be taken to Iran later on. According to the Telegraph, "Acting on orders received from Revolutionary Guards commanders in Iran, they [the Quds Force] took advantage of the chaos that engulfed Libya following the collapse of the regime of former dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi to seize significant quantities of advanced weaponry, according to military intelligence officers in Libya. They say the weapons stolen by Iran include sophisticated Russian-made SA-24 missiles that were sold to Libya in 2004. The missile can shoot down aircraft flying at 11,000 feet, and is regarded as the Russian equivalent of the American stinger missiles that were used by the US-backed Mujahedin to defeat Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s." It should, however, be pointed out that Con Coughlin of the Telegraph who reported on the issue has made many accusations against Iran that have turned out to be completely false.

The Daily Mail of London reported that actor Sean Penn was active behind the scenes to secure the release of two Americans freed by Iran last week. According to the newspaper, Penn flew to Venezuela to ask President Hugo Chávez to intervene with Iran's leaders. Venezuela's deputy foreign minister said on Thursday that Chávez brought up the case with Ahmadinejad after being alerted to the Americans' plight by friends in the U.S. "intellectual circles." "The American intellectual" who took up the case with him was Sean Penn, according to the newspaper: "Penn was very committed to the case.... He flew to Caracas several months ago to raise it with Chavez and he kept on it." Penn's spokesman in the United States has confirmed the account.

3:45 a.m., 3 Mehr/September 25 Our columnist Muhammad Sahimi compiled the following news items and commentary:

Though he said that many aspects of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's United Nations speech "caused happiness," Ahmad Tavakoli, a prominent Majles deputy, had more criticism than praise for the president's performance and that of the Foreign Ministry in New York. In an interview with Fars, the news agency run by the intelligence unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the MP lamented the failure of Iranian diplomats to walk out during President Obama's address to the General Assembly. Tavakoli also said,

Last year when Ahmadinejad traveled to the United States, the American woman accused of being a spy [Sarah Shroud] was released, and this year this was repeated [when Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer were set free]. First, the Office of the President announced that the two would be released, then the judiciary denied the report, but they were ultimately let go. Apparently, Mr. President wants to pretend that he is the main hero here, even if it is at the price of hurting the country's interest. Why is it every year when the president travels to the United States, the judiciary's ra'fat [mercy] spills over again? Getting $500,000 bail from each of the three is hilarious. Did the woman accused of spying appear in court for you [the judiciary] to accept bails from the other two? This is more like getting ransom than a proper conversion of an arrest warrant to a bail.

In its statement, the Foreign Ministry declared that the two Americans were released due to Islamic ra'fat, whereas one must ask why the president's ra'fat spills over only when he travels to the United States? Instead of creating a hero out of the president, the Foreign Ministry must try to gain the freedom of Iranian citizens [imprisoned in the United States].

Ahmadinejad's speech to the U.N. General Assembly can be listened to here.

In his meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Ahmadinejad said that there is evidence to suggest that four Iranian diplomats who disappeared in Lebanon in 1982 are still alive and in prison in Israel.

Ahmadinejad also accused the International Atomic Energy Agency of providing the United States with a list of Iranian nuclear scientists. He said that the IAEA must act legally without being pressured by political forces. He also criticized the international silence about the assassination of Iran's nuclear scientists, and said the U.N. must take a firm position against such acts and prevent them from happening again.

Ban used the meeting with the Iranian president to admonish him for the speech in which Ahmadinejad warned that "arrogant powers" threatened anyone who questioned the Holocaust and the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States with sanctions and military action. Ban told Ahmadinejad that comments denying or questioning painful historical facts such as the Holocaust and 9/11 are unacceptable.

Dolat-e Ma, a pro-Ahmadinejad website, claimed that his U.N. speech was "a message to billions that the emergence of Imam Mahdi is imminent." It added, "Once again, nations received a lesson on freedom and justice, so that the heart of Europe and the United States can witness the uprising of the students of the lessons [given by] Mahmoud Ahmadinejad."

In a press conference in New York after his speech, Ahmadinejad announced that if the West provides Iran with the 19.75 percent enriched uranium needed for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR), Iran will halt production of enriched uranium at that level. This position contradicts what Dr. Fereydoun Abbasi Davani, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said a few days ago. As reported here, Abbasi Davani said that Iran is no longer interested in a deal that involves sending its low-enriched uranium to the West in return for nuclear fuel for the TRR, and that Iran intends to become an exporter of 19.75 percent enriched uranium.

In his various interviews and press conferences in New York, Ahmadinejad repeatedly said that Iran is ready to reestablish diplomatic relations with the United States. Alaeddin Boroujerdi, chairman of the Majles Commission on National Security and Foreign Policy, seemed to be responding to the president when he said, "Reestablishing relations with the United States is not part of the government's responsibilities. It is the responsibility of the Supreme National Security Council, and the council's decisions cannot be implemented unless the Supreme Leader approves them." He added, "Relations between Iran and the United States was terminated unilaterally by the United States. Therefore, the responsibility for [reestablishing ties] bears on the U.S. Iran does not have any particular interest in reestablishing its relation with the U.S. due to the political realities of the system that rules the United States. This system wants to have relations with the world both unjustly and from the position of a superpower. The United States also has a dark record in the memory of the Iranian nation." Mehdi Mehdizadeh, a member of the same commission, reiterated what Boroujerdi said.

Ahmadinejad was supposed to go to Venezuela after his trip to the United States. But it was announced that the trip has been cancelled. The reason given was the treatment that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is undergoing for cancer. The two men were also supposed to meet in New York, but that meeting was cancelled too.

Catherine Ashton, the European Union high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, met with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi during the General Assembly meeting. As reported by Tehran Bureau, Saeed Jalili, secretary-general of Iran's Supreme National Security Council and chief nuclear negotiator, sent a letter to Ashton, suggesting that negotiations resume between Iran and the E.U. Ashton told Salehi that she would respond soon.

Salehi also met with British Foreign Secretary William Hague in New York. According to the British Foreign Office, Hague "emphasized that there was no animosity between the British and the Iranian people. The United Kingdom would continue to seek areas on which it could build deeper cooperation with Iran, such as counter-narcotics and Afghanistan. But there were important areas of disagreement between the U.K. and Iran." In its statement, the Foreign Office also said, "The U.K. respected Iran's right to civil nuclear power. But Iran had not persuaded the international community that its nuclear program was for peaceful purposes. The U.K. would, as part of the E3+3, maintain its strong resolve to oppose nuclear proliferation. The Foreign Secretary told Mr Salehi that the U.K. believed in universal human rights. In that context, the execution [Wednesday] of a 17-year-old boy [Alireza Molla Soltani], in contravention of Iran's obligations under the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, had caused huge international concern."

When Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, delivered his speech at the U.N. General Assembly, he received several rounds of thunderous applause, including from members of Iran's diplomatic mission and Foreign Minister Salehi. Iran's hardliners however scoffed at the idea. "The idea of an independent Palestine, as proposed by Abbas, is an American plot for deceiving the Palestinian people, 'establishing' the United States and Israel in the region, and creating a positive image for Abbas," said Parviz Sarvari, a hardline Majles deputy and Revolutionary Guard officer. "Israel has demonstrated that it will not make any concession unless it is pressured," and it is not pressured hard enough to make the concessions that it must, just minimal inconsequential concessions that can be showcased to take pressure off of it "to pursue its plots." He added, "Israel is still thinking of [a territory] from the Nile River to Euphrates River."

There has been a lot of speculation about whether Iran will vote in favor of the Palestinian leadership's request for full statehood at the United Nations if the issue lands before the General Assembly. Some have predicted that Iran will vote against it because the proposed boundaries of the Palestinian state are based on the 1967 borders, right before the Arab-Israel war broke out that October, and also because it fails to address pre-1967 Palestinian lands. But in his interview with ABC News, Ahmadinejad said, "Iran recognizes the establishment of the government of Palestine as the first step toward complete liberation of all Palestinians lands."

The Coordination Council for the Green Path of Hope, the temporary leadership council while Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi are under house arrest, has issued its second statement regarding the upcoming Majles elections, to be held next March 2. The statement contains an analysis of current conditions in Iran and calls for the release of the two leaders of the Green Movement and all other political prisoners as the first step toward improving the political atmosphere. The Council also said that efforts by the hardliners to persuade some people to run in the elections under the reformist banner will not be effective.

It appears that the Revolutionary Guards have announced their number one criterion for candidates who wish to run in the upcoming Majles election. Abolghasem Alizadeh, the representative of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the Fajr Corps in Fars province, said, "Those deputies are acceptable who are honestly obedient to the Supreme Leader and believe in Velaayat-e Faghih," the guardianship of the Islamic jurist, as represented by Khamenei. Alizadeh may have been referring to Ahmadinejad and his supporters, who have been accused of disobedience to Khamenei.

Brigadier General Gheyb Parvar, commander of the Fajr Corps, said that the Basij militia has also organized a unit for mass media, Basij-e Rasaaneh (mass media Basij).

A new website devoted to "informing people" about the "national catastrophe," or the $3 billion embezzlement case, was recently launched.

Mostafa Pour Mohammadi, head of the National Organization for Inspection, which oversees the performance of all government organs, said that those who are responsible for embezzling nearly $3 billion are accusing others of wrongdoing. He attributed the embezzlement to a "lack of discipline."

Naser Dehghan, deputy for political affairs of the armed forces' division of ideology, said that Ahmadinejad's team believes that the Iranian Hezbollah can command at most four million votes in the upcoming Majles elections. Dehghan also divided the reformists into two supposed groups: Those who do not accept the legitimacy of the current government, but accept Velaayat-e Faghih, and those who want to set up a completely secular system in Iran and to achieve popularity by associating themselves with "dancers and actors and actresses."

The president's older brother, Davood Ahmadinejad, has apparently become a critic of his brother. He was recently quoted as saying that the "perverted current" -- the hardliners' code name for Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, the president's chief of staff, and his inner circle -- has taken over "a part of the government." The older Ahmadinejad, a Revolutionary Guard commander and former head of inspection of the Office of the President, added that the "perverted group" is plotting for the upcoming Majles elections.

Mohammad Ebrahim Nekoonam, head of the Majles Article 90 Commission, which investigates citizen complaints against the government, said that the judiciary is still investigating First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi. He added that Rahimi's case has been under investigation for three years. Rahimi has been accused of being a ring leader in a case of very significant financial corruption and fraud.

Criticizing the state of the mass media, Seyyed Hassan Khomeini, a grandson of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, said, "In our country lying is not considered as bad as [drinking] a barrel of wine," which is strictly prohibited by Islam. He added that 95 percent of the media stories involving him were inaccurate. "Some of them are great exaggerations, while others are purely false," he said.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

SHAREtwitterfacebookSTUMBLEUPONbalatarin reddit digg del.icio.us
blog comments powered by Disqus

In order to foster a civil and literate discussion that respects all participants, FRONTLINE has the following guidelines for commentary. By submitting comments here, you are consenting to these rules:

Readers' comments that include profanity, obscenity, personal attacks, harassment, or are defamatory, sexist, racist, violate a third party's right to privacy, or are otherwise inappropriate, will be removed. Entries that are unsigned or are "signed" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. We reserve the right to not post comments that are more than 400 words. We will take steps to block users who repeatedly violate our commenting rules, terms of use, or privacy policies. You are fully responsible for your comments.