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Entries in Masoud Lavasani (1)


The Latest from Iran (16 April): Grounding the Opposition

1910 GMT: Khatami Grounded but Still Speaks. Former President Mohammad Khatami may have been halted from leaving Iran, but he has not been silenced. Khatami has spoken out against government pressure on newly released Iranian political prisoners “to denounce their connections with certain movements and public figures”.

Khatami claimed that the newly released prisoners “are being forced to make public confessions against their actual opinions and beliefs and they have been told that their limited freedom will be taken away from them if they do not do so".

1830 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. A court of appeal has confirmed a six-year prison sentence for journalist Masoud Lavasani as well as a ten-year ban on any journalism. Lavasani was originally sentenced to eight years after his detention in late September.

Mohammad Reza Lotfi Yazdi, a Mashhad student activist, has been released from Evin Prison after a six-week detention. Ali Sepandar and Behzad Parvin, two members of the Central Council of the Islamic Association at Birjand University, have also been freed.

Iran: A View From Tehran “The New Year Challenges”
Iran: A Note About the Voice of America, NIAC, and the “Journalism” of The Washington Times
The Latest from Iran (15 April): Accepting Authority?

1825 GMT: The Labour Front. Back from an extended break to find a useful summary by Iran Labor Report of developments, including economic downturns, protests over unpaid wages, and strikes.

1145 GMT: The Banning of the Reformists? We are watching this story carefully to see if it develops into the effective suspension of "legal" political activity by reformists in Iran:
The members of Article 10 Commission of Iran which monitors the activities of political parties in the country held a session yesterday asking the Judiciary to ban two reformist parties, Islamic Iran Participation Front (Party) and Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization.

They also submitted a letter to Tehran's Public Prosecutor's Office and requested for issuing a decree on the dissolution of both pro-reform parties. The decision was made through observing their background and actions taken by them.

1155 GMT: Recognising Activism and New Media. Iranian blogger, journalist, and women’s rights activist Jila Bani Yaghoub has been awarded the Reporters Without Borders Freedom of Expression prize for her blog “We are Journalists” at the 6th international “Best of the Blogs” event in Berlin.

Bani Yaghoub and her husband Bahman Ahmadi Amoui were detained last year during the post-election crisis. After her release, she wrote a moving open letter to her still-detained spouse and "Mr Interrogator".

1110 GMT: A Discussion. Seyed Hassan Khomeini, the grandson of the late Ayatollah Khomeini, has met Grand Ayatollah Yusuf Sane'i to consider "the problems of the country".

1055 GMT: Not Forgetting. Golnaz Esfandiari summarises the attempts by Iranian websites and bloggers to ensure that the cases and situations of "lesser-known" political prisoners are not forgotten.

1045 GMT: Corruption Watch. Rah-e-Sabz claims that the Supreme Leader has intervened to order a halt to the corruption investigation of First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi. Several high-profile members of Parliament have led the call for the inquiry against Rahimi, connected with the "Fatemi Avenue" insurance fraud.

1040 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. The Green Voice of Freedom claims it has a letter from a group of detainees in Evin Prison, announcing their plan to fast from 21 April until the anniversary of the election on 12 June. They make five demands: annulment of post-election sentences for political prisoners; release of all detainees on bail until trials are held; respect of Article 168 of the Constitution regarding political and press offences; investigation into illegal and unjust judicial procedures and interrogations at all levels; improving recreation, health and hygiene in all prisons and detention centres in the country.

The letter to the “Great Iranian Nation” states:
You know better than anyone, that thousands of your children who supported reformist candidates during the June 2009 presidential election and [identified with] the Green Movement were arrested at their workplaces or homes --- even in the middle of the night --- and taken to known and unknown detention centres and prisons on baseless grounds and accusations that mostly lacked (and still lack) legal justification. [Their imprisonment] clearly went against the constitution and the country’s current laws and citizen rights.

1035 GMT: The Court in Evin Prison. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has called for the closure of a recently-established “special court” at Evin Prison.

Attorneys for detainees say their work has become "impossible” with the newly established court. One of them, Nasrin Sotoudeh, summarises:

The judges are residing in a space that is under the strict control of the Ministry of Intelligence and during preliminary investigations, which are the most difficult time during a suspect’s prison term, case judges only receive information from intelligence officers, and neither the suspect’s lawyer nor his or her family can provide any information to the judges.

Another defense attorney, Farideh Gheyrat, said she is highly concerned about the inaccessibility of her clients’ files and claims that now even extracting the old “simple and incomplete” pieces of information about cases has become impossible.

1030 GMT: Labour Watch. A Street Journalist provides an English summary of a Deutsche Welle story, reported in EA earlier this week, of workers' protests and strikes in Khuzestan in southwest Iran.

1020 GMT: Economy Watch. As a sign of Iran's economic troubles, Rah-e-Sabz reports a sharp decline in employment in the town Asalouyeh in the south of the country. State companies have not paid wages for several months, and the Government owes owes 40 billion toman (more than $40 million) to private companies, for example in the electricity sector.

The website also reports that Iran's social security organisation is in deep trouble with a large deficit building from 2007. It claims that the head of the organisation has gone to Qom to seek help from clerics.

1015 GMT: A Subsidy Compromise? Khabar Online reports that the Parliament and Government have reached an agreement allowing President Ahmadinejad to take in and control more revenue from subsidy cuts.

Parliament had set the extra revenue at $20 million, half of the President's demand, but according to Khabar, "this week the Parliament gave a free hand to the government in arranging a schedule for implementing the plan, to define new prices for subsidized goods and above all adding tax incomes to the 200 trillion rials ($20 billion) budget".

EA's sharp readers will already note the double-edged sword for the Government if this compromise has been struck: it may indeed take in more money but only by raising prices --- through the subsidy reductions --- further on basic provisions such as food and energy.

1000 GMT: Clerical Intervention. Ayatollah Javadi Amoli has taken a swipe at the Government with the declaration that society must be governed with respect and fed so it can stand on its own feet. It is not difficult to govern with mercy.

Ayatollah Jafar Sobhani has added that the majority must be kept satisfied. If the Iranian people have reasonable demands, they should be addressed.

0950 GMT: And Take This, Opposition. Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati has issued a forceful denunciation of those challenging the regime. He claimed that they wanted to weaken the system of velayat-e-faqih (ultimate clerical authority) after the Ahmadinejad victory last night. The culprits included monarchists, Baha'i, reformist parties such as Mojahedin of Islamic Revolution and Islamic Iran Participation Front, National Front, communists, and secularists. (An EA reader wonders, "Is there anyone left who is not an opponent?")

0930 GMT: We return from extended break to follow up on yesterday's report that former President Mohammad Khatami was planning to attend a global disarmament conference in Japan next week.

EA readers quickly wrote us that the Iranian authorities intervened to prevent the journey. Parleman News wrote that Khatami, who was supposed to leave the country on Wednesday night, was not blocked at the airport or had his passport has not been withdrawn, but he succumbed to pressure and cancelled the trip at his own initiative.

Khatami remains a major international figure for his approach of "global dialogue", which he promoted in the late 1990s as an alternative to the notion of a clash of civilizations. More immediately, his presence in Japan would have deflected from Iran's own attempts to take the nuclear high ground with its own conference on nuclear disarmament, scheduled for Saturday and Saturday.